In a conundrum unlike any other, an international player is looking at being third fiddle in a club format!
Melbourne Storm fan favourite Brandon Smith is currently playing hooker, with captain Cameron Smith out of action due to injury.
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers hooker Harry Grant is also contracted to the Storm, but is currently out on loan from his home club.
Cameron Smith is on a one-year deal with no word on whether he will play on or not. If he plays on, Grant may look to extend the loan at Leichhardt. Brandon, as versatile as they come, will have another season as a ‘Mr Fix It’ player.
If Cam retires? Then the hooker role comes back to an open pool. Grant comes back to Melbourne but Brandon is there, waiting.
So who is the better hooker? Brandon is the better overall player, but Grant is the better 9 by a long shot. He delivers better, is fitter, defensively is strong and can play 80 in the new format. He is an out-and-out dummy half.
Grant should rightfully have his mitts on the purple 9 jersey.
But how do you cut off an international superstar from his favoured position? Well, you just have to in this scenario. Brandon would literally start in 80 per cent of the other sides. In the 2020 All Stars game, he carried the Maori side to victory with two tries, one disallowed try, and over 100 metres from dummy-half.
How do you stop that man from starting for a local side? You don’t.
As mentioned before, he is as versatile as they come. So play him at 13.
Brandon has dummy-half skills, so he can be the middle man, and link from No.9 to the half. He can pass both sides, can hit a lead runner, or be the back-door option. He runs as hard as any 13 in the competition and is safe defensively. He does exert a lot of energy because of how intense he is, but if he can manage this, he is your perfect 13.
So how does Craig Bellamy convince him to make the move? Well, if he leaves, he’ll play for the Titans, Warriors or Bulldogs at best – all bottom-eight teams. He may get his wish as a starting 9, but at what cost? Losing every week and not getting the same audience to admire your skills.
If he stays, he plays 13 for a winning team, shows representative coaches his versatility, and can cement himself as one of the game’s best locks.
He has the passion, the drive and the skill, so he’d be foolish to let a positional preference and emotion stop him playing 80 minutes in a winning side.
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I cannot see any current Kiwi who plays dummy-half anywhere near as good as Smith. Who would not pick the best hooker for the country, just because he is playing another position for his club?
Do you think Brad Fittler will question picking Jack Wighton in the centres because he plays five-eighth for the Raiders? Nope.
This move will not diminish Brandon’s representative opportunities, it will enhance them by further improving his skills and development.
C’mon ‘Cheese’, do what is best for your future. Embrace the purple 13 of the Melbourne Storm.