Ben Hampton made a winning start to his new role as Melbourne's first-choice five-eighth. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos.

Storm pivot has unfinished business

He would've loved being the top dog in the Shire, or played sidekick to the man who sits in the chair in Townsville, Queensland and Australia. And at one stage, he went awfully close to doing so too. 

But there's a seat in Melbourne with his name on it – it just hasn't been carved in stone yet. So when the contract of Storm pivot Ben Hampton came up last year, he couldn't leave. Not like this. 

"I wasn't too sure what I was going to do. I had a couple of other options elsewhere, which I was really interested in actually. I wasn't too far off taking a few of them options up," Hampton told NRL.com. 

Six years in Melbourne is a fairly long time for a bloke born in central NSW and raised in far north Queensland, especially when you've only had a whiff of first grade (13 games) in that same period. 

So when the offers started fluttering in for the 22-year-old midway through last year, the bright lights of Sydney beckoned, while the familiarity of home town Cairns called. 

"But I think my main reason for staying was that I don't think I'm finished at the Storm yet," he said. 

"Smithy, Bill, Coops... even the other guys like Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, they're all playing representative footy and killing it in the NRL. Playing with those boys and being around them is going to help me in the long run."

It's not just the players, either. There was a moment last year where the window in the coach's box wasn't the only one copping a spray. But the Queensland under-20s representative welcomed it with open arms. 

"[Bellamy] just said, 'Look, you need to work on your defence.' He's good at identifying what you need to do. He'll tell you straight away," Hampton recalled. 

"And you'd rather him be telling you to do stuff than not telling you anything at all. Whether he's talking to you, if it's good or bad, you'd rather him be saying stuff than not. I took on board what he said, and [have] been really working on it."

So much so that he's given up every 20-year-old's favourite past-time, too. 

"Going out and having a few beers and doing all that stuff when I was a bit younger I thought might've been a bit more important. Now I just pick my times a lot better, whereas when I was a bit younger, I didn't," he said. 

"Now I've got the hang of it. It's taken me a bit longer than what I hoped, to pick up the NRL intensity of training and how much different it is to junior footy. Finally it's starting to pick up. Craig always talks about doing the little things right and I'm slowly getting better at doing them which is helping me all over the field.

"So having Craig as a coach... I just didn't think I was ready [to move]. I've still got plenty to learn and I might as well stay while they're here."

Still, there's the competition. Last season he partnered Cronk in the halves up until Round 16, when the enigmatic Ben Roberts took over. After that, Hampton didn't get a look in. 

"I don't know if I took the opportunity enough, the opportunities I was given. I played a couple of decent games of footy but I also played a few games that weren't good enough. That's probably why I only played half the season in first grade," he said. 

"But I've worked on the stuff that I needed to work on this year and I've changed a lot off field. I think that's going to help me a lot – to get a spot and hopefully play a bit more first grade this year."