In late October, 2017, the owner of the New England Patriots made one of the biggest calls in his career.
He decided to hold on to his then 40-year-old Quarterback, Tom Brady, and trade away his long-term future quarterback in waiting, Jimmy Garoppolo. The coach, Bill Belichick, was very vocal in wanting Brady traded and wanting to keep ‘Jimmy G’, for future’s sake, as he had an easy ten years in him, opposed to Brady’s 1-3 year span.
Funny enough, the Patriots of the NRL, the Melbourne Storm, are facing a similar conundrum for 2021.
If you look at the current Dally M table, there is a young hooker by the name of Harry Grant on top, followed closely by another hooker named Cameron Smith.
Tiger hooker Grant is on a player loan from the Melbourne Storm, subsequently the team of Cameron Smith. Smith, a legend in his own right (Brady), is weighing up whether to play on one more season, or retire at season’s end.
Grant (Garropolo), is desperate for game time, in which he will not get if Smith stays on board. In his first season with his loaned club, he has absolutely lit up the NRL. He plays like a seasoned veteran and has made a strong case, for himself being a top five hooker already, in only a handful of games.
But wait, there’s more. The best hooker in New Zealand and current international sensation, Brandon Smith, also plays for the Melbourne Storm. Some see him as the predecessor to Smith’s jersey, thus leaving Grant in the abyss.
Three world-class hookers and only one slot. Here is how I would handle the situation if Smith stays, or if he leaves.
Grant is contracted back to the Storm, regardless if Smith stays on. If I am right, coach Craig Bellamy is no fool. He will do what is best for his club’s success in the long run. I believe he will only allow Cam play on if he plays at halfback, a less strenuous position on the body, and a position he can comfortably play – thus leaving the 9 position open.
I would personally give it to Grant. He suits the style of play and is fast enough to adapt, Brandon seems to be that one step too slow (as shown in the Roosters game).
Where does that leave Brandon Smith? He is an all-out footballer. He needs to be in the team. I would play Brandon at 13, where I think he is best suited, because of his skillset and toughness.
Brandon can play the hybrid form of lock, that the Roosters have developed with Radley, where he becomes a hit man on defence, but a third half in attack. His ball playing skills from dummy half, allow him to have that skillset available.
I would happily move Dale Finucane to the front row, as he plays like a front row now, pairing him with Jesse Bromwich. With Christian Welch’s pending departure and NAS current impact off the bench, it leaves for a Jesse/Dale starting front row duo, with Tui Kamikamibuca and NAS off the bench together. Sorted.
With Cam staying, I would have it as below:
13. B. Smith
7. C. Smith
This becomes fairly similar, just with an open halfback position. Given his push in form and confidence, I believe Jahrome Hughes deserves to hold his spot at 7, and have Grant playing 9 as mentioned before and Brandon at 13.
There is no loss in playing a different position, I feel. Brandon is that skilled, he could really push for being a great lock, as Radley was this season before his untimely injury. Grant plays like a younger Cam, and can manage the game as well as anyone else.
Add in the grit of Brandon and the growing combination of Munster/Hughes, I believe there are definitely bright days ahead if Cam does choose to retire. Funny enough, the above mentioned front row pair of Finucane or Bromwich – I see either one of them as the next skipper, if Cam decides to call it a day – leaning towards Dale.
Both options I believe the Storm prevail, if Brandon does choose not to play lock and want a hooking role, it may get a little touchy – but this is the best option if Cam decides to stay or go.
While teams struggle to find a strong dummy half, the Storm have a plethora of them, but more important than that, each are skilled enough to play other positions.
Beware of the Storm!