Melbourne’s future long-term hooker

The Storm’s next long-term option at hooker has finally emerged, with his durability and evergreen smarts looking certain to sideline boom prospect Harry Grant.

Youthful rake Cameron Smith has further staked his claim for permanent rights to the Melbourne number nine jersey, winding back the clock last week against the Knights with a performance akin to his glory days from almost a week ago.

With trademark guile and hands so clean they smelt like fresh linen, Smith dictated proceedings against the hapless Knights with all the energy of a man in his 50s.

It was a performance felt right across the league, with astute judges praising his longevity while the northern states smeared him with another targeted media campaign, a tactic which after 19 seasons of Smith dominance is proving wildly impactful.

Turning 37 yesterday, it is widely accepted Smith should have retired two Olympics ago. He has nothing in the game left to achieve except the relief of opposition fans, a feat he can accomplish by simply moving into commentary or a lifestyle village sometime before 7:55 pm tonight.

But it appears the unsinkable 416-gamer looks set to continue, strengthening his claims for Immortal status by not only playing like a generational standout but by also literally never dying anywhere except on prone ball-carriers or the scalp.

Cameron Smith and Brendon Smith.

Cameron Smith (right), a Storm legend. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

When Smith talks about ending his career on ‘his terms’, he is now referring to presidential terms, and 13 of them. With a bit of luck from medicine, he actually could match his games tally by playing until he’s 400, before retiring to box the great-grandson of Paul Gallen’s great-grandson.

But there is one obvious question to arise from this: will there ever be another hooker play for Melbourne again?

Smith’s decision to continue playing rugby league into the afterlife could have grave repercussions. Not only would it challenge every scientific and religious doctrine known to man – just like the times we had to support Melbourne in all those grand finals against Manly – it could cost them heir-to-the-throne Harry Grant.

For those unaware, Grant is contracted to the Storm but currently finds himself on loan to the Tigers. This was after the two clubs signed off on a historic swap deal that secured the Victorian club the services of Paul Momirovski in exchange for Grant and his two contracts.

Harry Grant looks on

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It was a landmark deal, not only for being the first of its kind, but because nobody believed Melbourne and the joint venture would ever agree to anything again after the irreconcilable distrust of the Adam Blair deal.

Stepping in to replace the retired Robbie Farah and perennially unlucky Jacob Liddle, Grant was immediately fast-tracked to the top of the Tigers hooking stocks above Moses Mbye, Josh Reynolds and Billy Walters, mainly on account of being an actual hooker.

He has since wasted no time showcasing his talents, becoming the first rake this century to sharpen up the Tigers’ attack without hijacking every fifth tackle or white-anting the coach.

As a result, Michael Maguire and the Tigers have made it clear they want to retain Grant’s silky services. On the other hand, the Storm have anointed him as the man to emulate Smith, believing he has the ability to lead, influence games and induce jewellery for his spouse from the NRL.

Ultimately, the final decision will rest with Grant, which is a shame because it would be juicy to watch two rivals dispute ownership of a prized commodity, much like Gaza or Greg Inglis.

Grant has a get-out clause if Smith continues past 2022, a contract provision which probably will also be needed by his unborn son.

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