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Why Hampton knocked back the Cowboys

In-demand Storm five-eighth Ben Hampton decided the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the NRL was too good an opportunity to ignore. Credit: Charles Knight. Copyright: NRL Photos.

Ben Hampton had a tough decision to make.

Return home to North Queensland and closer to family and friends, or stay in Melbourne and learn from some of the game's greatest mentors. 

Storm fans were relieved he chose the former.

Hampton put pen to paper on a new deal that will see him stay in Melbourne for the next two seasons, though the deal was not without its doubts.

Several clubs were reported to be chasing the 22-year-old five-eighth, with reports at one stage suggesting he had signed, and later pulled out of, a deal to join Cronulla.

But Hampton says when the time came to decide on his playing future only the Cowboys and Storm were in contention.

"They were the two it came down to in the end," Hampton told NRL.com.

"I had a pretty big decision to make when it came down to crunch time. I wasn't always thinking about staying in Melbourne.

"There was always that temptation to go back home and see how things went up in Townsville. That'd be great to get back up there closer to the family and I know a lot of people from that area."

The lure of home for the boy from Mareeba is clearly strong, so much so that two more years may be his limit before he can resist it any longer.

But as tempting as it seemed Hampton knew he would have no better place to develop him game than in the purple jersey.

"I have still got a lot to learn I think and I thought this [Melbourne] would be the best place to do it," said Hampton.

"You've got a coach like Craig Bellamy and blokes like Cameron Smith, who is a great leader, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, those sort of boys. I wanted to hang around and play with those boys a bit more and I just thought it would be the best thing to do at the moment.

"I have still got a lot to learn down here and I think I can do it under those players and Craig Bellamy so I think that made my decision in the end."

What better place for a developing half to learn than under the tutelage of current Maroons and Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk.

Cronk's footsteps are ones Hampton has been tipped to follow after representing Queensland throughout his junior career, even captaining the inaugural Maroons Under-20 side in 2012.

However the past month has kept the young man well grounded from such a dream.

Dropped after the Storm's Round 16 defeat to the Dragons, Hampton has been forced to ply his trade in the NSW Cup while his teammates have gone on a three-game winning streak.

He is under no illusions about what he needs to improve on if he is to regain the No.6 jersey from Ben Roberts.

"I think the coaches just want me to really work on my defence. I am a bit of a smaller guy and can be a real target sometimes," said Hampton

"I think an improvement in my defence will definitely take me a step forward to getting back in the side."

With just 13 games of NRL experience under his belt there is nothing but upside ahead for Hampton.

If the young five-eighth was able to attract as much interest as he did this year, there is no telling the number of clubs who will come knocking on his door in two years' time.

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