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Support grows for Hughes to earn Kiwis debut

Following his starring role in Saturday's 32-10 victory over the Warriors, calls are growing for Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes to be included in New Zealand's squad to face Tonga later this month.

While Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has a mortgage on Hughes's preferred fullback spot, the 24-year-old could assume a place in the halves for Kiwis coach Michael Maguire or play a utility role off the interchange.

Hughes underlined his versatility in the round-13 win at Mt Smart Stadium, starting at fullback before moving into the halves and scoring two tries.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said Hughes had done everything he could to earn a Test call-up.

"He's probably a fair option to start [at fullback for the Kiwis], but obviously with Roger there it's hard to get a start in his favoured position," Bellamy said.

"Jahrome's an outstanding player. With Jahrome [against the Warriors], he has played in the halves before but not this year, [so] to swap positions and play the game he did, he certainly wouldn't be out of his depth if he got picked for the Kiwis."

Match Highlights: Warriors v Storm

Tuivasa-Sheck said it was hard not to be impressed by what Hughes had done this season, since taking over the fullback spot made vacant by Billy Slater's retirement.

"I am a big fan of his and how he plays … I think he is playing really well," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"He's slotted into the half and fullback role really nicely and he goes really well. If he comes off the bench, or if he starts, he will be dangerous."

Hughes toured with the Kiwis at the end of last year without getting a game and said it had been a rollercoaster eight months, after initially falling behind in the Storm's pecking order at fullback before Scott Drinkwater suffered a pre-season pectoral injury.

"It has been a pretty weird experience. I was lucky enough to get selected in the Kiwis last year and came back a little later to training to see Scott Drinkwater absolutely killing it in the pre-season [at fullback]," Hughes said.

"It was a bit of motivation for me, I knew my spot wasn't guaranteed after Billy retired and that I needed to put in the hard work.

"Unfortunately I got the spot probably not the way I really wanted to, with Drinky going down in the pre-season. If that [Kiwis] chance comes I am going to jump at it."

Bellamy said New Zealand should have no hesitation in selecting Brandon Smith as their starting hooker, despite the 23-year-old having played all of his 11 games this season off the bench, mostly as a middle forward.

After being the starting dummy-half in all three of the Kiwis' end-of-year Tests against England, Smith is expected to get the nod ahead of Warriors veteran Issac Luke.

Hughes scores down blindside

"I don't think it's going to affect him to be honest, I think he does enough practice at our training [at hooker] … he plays a lot of that role at training," Bellamy said.

"He did a great job last year for the Kiwis over in England, so he certainly ain't going to let them down if that's his position in a couple of weeks. For us at the moment that's his best role [off the interchange].

"Dummy-half is his favoured position and probably his best position, but it's hard for him to put out the bloke we have got there [Cameron Smith] at the moment."

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