Melbourne Storm youngster Harry Grant has declared himself ready to fill in for injured hooker Brandon Smith during the opening rounds of the season.
Smith is likely to be sidelined for between 4-6 weeks after he suffered a facial fracture during his man-of-the-match performance for the Maori All Stars on Saturday night, meaning Grant is in the mix to fill in and wear the No.14 jersey.
Grant's playing style differs markedly from Smith's renowned bullocking game but the 22-year-old says he is willing to perform that role if given the chance.
"If the 14 jersey is available with Brandon out for a few weeks I will chuck my hand up," Grant said on Tuesday.
"Brandon is more of a middle unit player with the role he plays, but I will put my hand up if Bellsa (Craig Bellamy) is looking for a smaller forward off the bench.
"I will tell him I can play the middle and do the tough stuff for him. I did it a little bit in the juniors, so I haven’t done it for a while, but I will give it a crack.
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Grant has been the focus of much discussion during the pre-season, with his proposed loan deal to the Tigers for centre Paul Momirovski seemingly off after it looked like it was going to proceed earlier this month.
The on-again, off-again deal hasn't been lost on Grant's teammates, with many of his peers taking the opportunity to jokingly refer to him as 'Paul' at training and after he played a pivotal role in the Storm's 18-16 trial victory over the Warriors last weekend.
Grant said negotiations with the Tigers about the proposed loan deal are ongoing, but his focus has now turned to what he can provide the Storm this campaign.
"I have got to look after the Storm," Grant said.
"I don’t want to be selfish and leave when they are looking for a back-up hooker with Brandon out."
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Grant is hoping to get some more time to impress his coaches when the Storm tackles the Cowboys in their second trial match at Casey Fields in Melbourne's south east on Saturday.
Bellamy is likely to name a team similar to what he will use for the opening round against the Sea Eagles next month, but Grant thinks he might get the chance to show his wares in his preferred hooker position.
"I will see how many minutes Cam Smith gets through," he said.
"With Brandon injured I am hoping I might get a bit of game time at No.9."