With the writing on the wall, Melbourne’s Brandon Smith has been given approval to find a new NRL home at the end of the 2021 season.
Smith has long spoken of his desire to start at hooker and was biding his time until Cameron Smith’s retirement.
With the skipper is yet to officially announce his playing future, the younger Smith has been leapfrogged by Harry Grant.
Grant was was unearthed as a rising superstar with a breakout season while on loan to Wests Tigers and then in Queensland’s State of Origin triumph last month.
Melbourne announced on Monday afternoon that Smith could leave a year before his contract ended after the Kiwi international asked for an early release.
They recognised that the 24-year-old, who played as a middle forward this season in the starting side and off the bench, wanted to play exclusively as hooker.
“Brandon is a wonderful player and great person to have around the club,” said Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi.
“Given he is now a premiership player, national representative and has been a valuable asset to our team over the last few years, any move will only be considered with appropriate arrangements put in place.”
The Storm want a player of similar value to Smith should they allow him to leave, similar to Test winger Josh Addo-Carr, who wanted an early exit to return home to Sydney.
They couldn’t reach a suitable agreement for Addo-Carr and he will see out his contract next season.
“The club has shown we are comfortable with negotiating these requests while also maintaining our performance on the field, given we were in the same position with Josh Addo-Carr only 12 months ago,” Ponissi said.
“We look forward to having Brandon back on the track on January 4 along with his teammates as they prepare for the 2021 season.”