Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy, one would assume, has quite a dilemma on his hands in trying to decide upon on starting hooker to replace the legendary Cam Smith.
Brandon Smith started the season in the position Bellamy fashions as a new-era dummy half while Harry Grant was recovering from a preseason knee injury.
And Smith, to his credit, was playing well enough to make the position his own.
However, a player of Grant’s class was always going to be in with a chance.
This wound up being the case, in spades, in the Storm’s 20-4 win over the Sydney Roosters on Friday night at AAMI Park.
Grant was quite involved in the Storm’s scoring plays, having scored a try of his own after setting up Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen for scores of their own in a second-half outburst that devastated the visiting Roosters like deep-fried chickens.
Which isn’t to say that Smith, the “block of cheese”, wasn’t effective. He was, but in a different way.
In addition to gaining key metres on some hard running, including after busting tackles and initial contacts from the opposition, Smith made all of his tackles. All 33 of them.
In playing a key two-way role complementing Grant's opportunistic playmaking, Smith was completely reliable, and effective in all that he was doing.
As they played 47 and 46 minutes respectively, Smith and Grant give Bellamy and the Storm a particular Batman-and-Robin equation: a dynamic duo (literally!) who, while providing different outputs of roles via their skill sets, are best measured and assessed with their teamwork together.
Choosing between them exists as a splitting-hairs operation – you could do it, but why would you?
“Harry was wonderful for us last week and he was wonderful again tonight,” Bellamy said after the game.
“But I thought Brandon played strong for us tonight and they did a real good job in the first 20 minutes of the second half when they were going in tandem,” added Bellamy.
Clearly, the sum-of-all-parts equation suits Bellamy and the Storm nicely.
“Our improvement can come from the combinations of those two guys with the rest of the team and particular the spine and I think there are some good times ahead for this team,” said Bellamy.
For a team that has won its last three games by an aggregate margin of 112-28 after a lackluster 1-2 start – mind you, many of these first six games have come against the NRL’s elite teams of the competition – the partnership of Smith and Grant appears to be evolving at a similar trajectory with the Storm’s succession of results.
And according to Bellamy, their partnership which was initially believed to be a competition for the same position, the progressions between the two players as they co-exist in the same position will be reviewed continuously on a match-by-match basis.
“With Brandon [currently] starting, it takes the edge off Harry, but we might swap it around,” said Bellamy.
“Because Brandon does a great job in his other role [of loose forward] as well, we will take it week by week,” he added.
But given their relative lack of time in tandem, in games or on the practice paddock, Bellamy remains impressed with their progress so far – and likes the potential up-side of their partnership.
“They are still working on their combinations in every training session and every game. Harry has only played four games for the Storm and has missed a lot of training with his injury after the trial,” said Bellamy.
“You would like to think those combinations will get stronger and stronger the more they train and the more they play,” he added.
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