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Storm hooker Brandon Smith.

Brandon Smith rolls his shoulders. Squeezes his eyes shut. And clings to a one-metre long piece of scrap metal like his life depends on it.

Forget the Cam Smith successor, heir apparent tags. The call-up into New Zealand Test camp without an NRL appearance to his name, or the lengthy contract extensions that will keep Brandon Smith in Melbourne until the end of 2022.

It's this iron bar that truly justifies the Storm's high hopes and immense investment in the stocky utility.

"It doesn't look like much but it means a lot to me," Smith grins.

The innocuous piece of scrap metal means a lot to Melbourne. It's the memento treasured as much as any other individual accolade at the game's most professional club.

Men like Dale Finucane, Matt Duffie and all-time club favourite Ryan Hinchcliffe have laid claim to this unremarkable trophy – the only one awarded after the NRL's most infamous pre-season boot camp.

Storm pushed to the limits at training

It's given out by the drill sergeants that flog Melbourne's recruits and youngsters for three sleepless, harrowing days, through all manner of horrors.

Sorting out the Storm wannabes from the gonnabes.

Last December Craig Bellamy's discipline disciples handed the iron bar to Smith, the 21-year-old impressing more than any other player, doing more for his teammates than anyone else.

"It's at home just lying around, but every time I see it I just have the memories come back," Smith tells NRL.com.

"Not the horrors, just that feeling of getting that iron bar. That was when we'd finished the camp, turned around and the euphoria you get from that and really connecting with your teammates, there's really nothing like it.

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"I ripped in, did what I could to impress the coaches and really tried to lift the boys that were struggling at some point on the camp.

"I ended up getting announced as man of the camp afterwards. You get to keep this metal bar you carry around all the time.

"I would've held onto that thing for about six hours all up. When you're holding it up above your head for God knows how long, they're just trying to break you mentally.

"If the boys were struggling you could walk over and put your bar underneath there's, prop them up and give them a little rest. You do that and then someone would return the favour.

"I did it a few times, as soon as you did someone else would come help you out in the same way."

Smith lives in a share house with the brightest of Melbourne's Next Gen stars.

The framed junior rep jerseys of Brodie Croft, Curtis Scott, Scott Drinkwater and Smith catch the eye, but it's the iron bar that resonates most.

Particularly when Bellamy weighs up an agonising call on whether to bring Smith onto his bench  for Friday's grand final qualifier against Cronulla.

Storm welcoming back stars

Retiring warhorse Ryan Hoffman or the tireless Joe Stimson would make way for the youngster, two more men held in special esteem in the southern capital for their selfless, team first attitudes.

More than any other over the years, former lock/utility Hinchcliffe held that mantle as the Storm's ultimate clubman – treasured for his efforts across 175 games in purple.

With the other Smith set to go around again in 2019 and showing no signs of slowing down, Brandon Smith is being sized up for a similar role to Hinchcliffe for the next few seasons.

And performances like that on last year's boot camp have Melbourne's football department noticing a likeness beyond just the playing field.

"I really look up to Ryan Hinchcliffe," Smith says.

"The whole club is built around people like him, he's helped lay the foundation for the culture here at the Storm. If I can even get mentioned in the same breath as a guy like him, then I'm very proud of my performance.

"He had already left by the time I arrived but the discussions we have in pre-season, the people that have had an impact on the club, he's really highly regarded in what it means to be a Storm player."

 

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