Harry Grant must be locked in as Melbourne Storm’s next hooker, Peter Sterling says.
Yet Cameron Smith can’t play as a permanent halfback should he continue his career, while Brandon Smith is the odd man out and must make a permanent shift to back-row, the Parramatta Eels legend believes.
It’s a tricky situation for the Storm, carrying three elite hookers in their roster. It may become simpler if Cameron Smith retires after this season, but that’s not a certainty.
“To me, Cameron Smith’s not a halfback,” Sterling said on Sterlo’s Wrap.
“I don’t think you can play him a season in the halves. I just don’t think that works – but how do you fit everybody in?
“In my opinion, Harry Grant will be the No.9 for the Melbourne Storm. Despite this transfer deal [with Wests Tigers], he’s under contract with the Melbourne Storm.
“In my opinion, Brandon Smith is actually a back-rower and he’s now become the emotional leader of the Melbourne Storm team.”
Sterling highlighted a run made by Brandon Smith in last week’s win over the Roosters, in which he attracted a swarm of defenders on the tackle before a Jahrome Hughes try. The powerful 94kg Kiwi star received the ball one-out and demanded extra attention to prevent him from crossing the tryline.
“That charge there, that attracts five defenders and have a look at how much easier it is then for Jahrome Hughes to score a crucial try,” Sterling said.
“He stripped the defence, Brandon Smith. I don’t know if he can do that coming out of dummy-half.
“I know he’s the New Zealand Test rake and I know that in his mind that he believes he’s the heir apparent to Cameron Smith. But somehow, Melbourne are going to have to keep Harry Grant, they’re going to have to keep Brandon Smith happy and also deal with maybe Cameron Smith going around next year.
“But Cameron can’t be playing in the halves for a full season. That won’t work.”
If Cameron Smith plays on, Grant may have to settle for the apprentice hooker role filled by Brandon Smith and gradually take more responsibility from the future Immortal, who has already adopted some first-receiver duties despite wearing No.9.
Immortal Andrew Johns has suggested that this awkward scenario might be best avoided by Cameron Smith extending his career in England; as a halfback, if he wishes to play several more seasons by avoiding the heavy defensive load of a hooker.
Meanwhile, Brandon Smith moves into the forwards or demands a switch to another club, given that he believes the Storm No.9 spot to be his after his namesake moves on.
Sterling said that he also couldn’t see Cameron Smith playing out the remainder of this season at halfback, where he was used against the Roosters with five-eighth Cameron Munster out injured.
“He can play that role but for the Melbourne Storm to be at their best, he needs to be at dummy-half,” Sterling said.
“He is [playing both positions currently]. He can drop back in games and play that [halfback] role.
“Jahrome Hughes has done a great job in his time there [in the halves] and Cameron Smith is adaptable enough to do that, but Munster will come back.
“But for 2021, I’m not quite sure how Melbourne Storm are going to fit everybody in. But to me, Brandon Smith is not the No.9, Harry Grant will be [and] work that out with Cameron Smith.”