The rise of former Mackay Cutters team-mates and house-mates Nicho Hynes and Aaron Booth helped inspire Jordan Grant to keep pursuing his NRL dream while forced to sit out last season due to COVID-19.
Grant, who made his NRL debut alongside Hynes and Booth in Melbourne’s 48-4 defeat of Newcastle last Saturday, lived with the pair in 2018 but thought he’d never get to play with them again after they joined the Storm.
While Hynes and Booth were part of Melbourne’s 2020 premiership-winning squad, Grant spent the season in limbo as all second-tier competitions were cancelled.
Living in Brisbane, the 26-year-old worked as a bank teller and trained with former Wests Tigers hooker Manaia Cherrington in the hope of finally getting a chance to play in the NRL.
Offered a train-and-trial contract with the Storm, Grant moved to Melbourne with the goal of following the path taken by Hynes in 2019 and Booth last year.
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However, the rookie front-rower suffered a serious setback when he tore his hamstring off the bone on just the third day of pre-season training and again feared his NRL hopes may have been dashed.
The Storm stuck by him and Grant’s perseverance paid off last weekend when he finally got to make his NRL debut against the Knights.
“There were many points in my career where I thought I wanted to throw the towel in,” Grant said.
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“I was thinking in my head that I was getting to a certain age and would I be able to make it to that next stage and keep pushing.
“I didn’t play any football last year due to COVID so I just virtually trained the whole year and I was just in the mindset coming into this year that I wanted to try and get my foot in the door with an NRL team.
“Nicho and Aaron were on my back non-stop, saying ‘you need to come down here and give it a shot’ because I didn’t play any football. I was thinking I am getting to the age where I need to give this a red-hot crack and see if it pays off, and it has.”
Grant, who played lower grades for Wests Tigers before joining Mackay Cutters in 2018, said the opportunity to play alongside Hynes and Booth in his NRL debut was something he had never anticipated.
“That was a moment I will never forget,” he said. “Darcy Cox, who I played with at Wests Tigers, rang me and said, ‘come up here [to Mackay], there are a few good lads who I am living with’, which was Aaron Booth and Nicho Hynes.
“From that day on we have had a strong bond that has led to us being closer and closer over the years.”
“It is funny because Nicho got the pre-season train-and-trial down in Melbourne, the same as Boothy.
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"I saw them get a crack and they told me how good the culture was in the club and how much everyone gets around each other and helps each other. Being around those players really makes you want to be a better player."
Grant has been named among the reserves in the Storm’s 21-man squad, with 2020 Clive Churchill Medallist Ryan Papenhuyzen, Kiwi front-rower Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Origin stars Christian Welch and Josh Addo-Carr set to return this weekend.
“The big message around here is to ‘stay ready’, instead of ‘get ready’," Grant said. "Everyone’s mindset is obviously training hard and 100 per cent every day because if you get that opportunity you are ready to go."