If Cameron Smith (pictured) hadn’t already decided on his Melbourne Storm future, Harry Grant may have made the decision for him.
With Smith in the Suncorp Stadium commentary box, Grant turned in one of the most memorable debuts in State of Origin history in surely a sign that the new Storm era had arrived.
The young hooker came off the bench and wreaked havoc on NSW in his 56 minutes to help secure the 20-14 victory.
As well as scoring a crucial try, he had two try assists, two line breaks, four tackle busts, 67 run metres and made 26 tackles, prompting former Queensland coach Paul Vautin to declare the No.9 jersey his for “the next eight to 10 years”.
“He’s 22. We saw what he did tonight when he came on,” Vautin said in commentary.
But whether the Storm hooker jersey is also his, remains in Smith’s hands. Smith says he will make a call before Christmas on whether to play on for a 20th season.
On form, why not.
As well as leading Melbourne to the premiership, the 37-year-old finished just four points behind Dally M Medallist Jack Wighton, despite missing four matches.
Smith says he’s genuinely torn, feeling he’s still at the top of his game.
But an extra season on Smith’s career in Melbourne could lead to years of regret for the Storm if it means they lose Grant.
Grant told Wests Tigers, where he spent the season on loan, that if Smith plays on in 2021, he won’t be donning the purple.
Grant made mention of the Tigers in his post-Origin speech, acknowledging that without the game time afforded by the Sydney club this year, he wouldn’t have been in representative reckoning.
“I can’t thank Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers enough for the opportunity … if I did stay in Melbourne I wouldn’t have played much footy and definitely wouldn’t have been here,” Grant said.
He’s believed to have a get-out clause, while Brandon Smith, the Kiwi Test hooker, is also desperate to be a regular NRL starter and is said to be considering a shift if his namesake plays on.
His Maroons and Storm teammate Cameron Munster felt Grant was a lock.
The next “big three” in Munster, Grant and young fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen can continue Melbourne’s success for the next decade.
“He’s a freak. He’s lucky he’s staying at the Storm so unlucky Tigers,” Munster said post-match of Grant.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy won’t push Smith to retire and won’t limit his game time, letting the captain make the call despite the talents of Grant.
At his autobiography book launch, all the talk was about the missing final chapter that revealed his future but Grant may have written it for him.
Smith just needs to read what’s right in front of him.