NZ Kiwis star Brandon Smith has seemingly backed away from plans to leave Melbourne Storm early, dashing any hopes he may sign with NZ Warriors for next season.
The Waiheke-born hooker has bided his time at Melbourne, playing second fiddle to NRL legend Cameron Smith for five years, waiting for his chance to claim the No.9 jersey fulltime.
But he now faces a challenge from Queensland State of Origin rake Harry Grant, who produced a breakout season in 2020, while on loan to Wests Tigers.
Earlier this month, Smith seemed on the verge of a buy-out that would put him on the free-agent market for next season and he eventually posted on social media, denying that rumour.
Hopes were high among Warriors fans, reeling from the news that captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck would leave next season and anxious that the current roster was down to only one specialist hooker, Wayde Egan.
But Smith's agent has told NRL.com that he will stay put until the end of his contract next year and Smith himself admits he's eagerly awaiting Grant's return from injury to form a potent one-two punch from dummy half.
"Brandon will be at the Storm until the end of 2022," says agent Stan Martin. "In all honesty, I don't think it is going to happen.
"I am not talking to anyone, no club at all."
Adds Smith: "Well, I can't really leave, can I?"
The 24-year-old admits he's struggled to adapt to his new starting role, after carving a niche as impact player off the bench for so long.
"I guess I'm going to have to remodel my game, even my routine," Smith says. "Usually, I like to be super pumped up before I go on the field.
"It's a bit different now and I feel like I can get too tired if I go like that. It's all a learning curve for me - I can't wait to have Harry back.
"I'm excited to have him back and get that one-two punch together."
After their loss to Penrith Panthers last week, Smith admits the defending NRL champions are still adjusting to life without Cam Smith, who has retired after playing 433 games for the Storm and leading them to three titles.
"The game management's not there," says Brandon Smith. "We're playing a bit like kids at the moment and we need to put the icing on the cake and take our opportunities.
"The best thing about it is we are creating the opportunities."
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