Brandon Smith is keen to strike a "one-two punch" combination with Harry Grant as it looks increasingly likely both star hookers will remain at Melbourne in 2022.
Smith had been given permission by the Storm to explore the player market in pursuit of a starting No.9 spot next season, but NRL.com understands the Kiwi star is now expecting to see out the duration of his deal with the club.
NRL rivals including the Titans, Bulldogs and Broncos that had pursued Smith have been told as much, with his agent Stan Martin telling NRL.com he expects Smith to remain at Melbourne given his proposed release was contingent on a player swap.
"Brandon will be at the Storm until the end of 2022," Martin said.
"In all honesty I don't think it is going to happen. I am not talking to anyone, no [rival] club at all."
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Rather than battling Grant for the starting dummy-half role when he returns from a knee injury in coming weeks, Smith said he can’t wait to have the Queensland Origin rake back to share the duties.
Smith only offered a brief, "well I can't really leave can I?" when asked about his future, but more immediately, he sees no point in taking his foot off the gas to try and push out some 80-minute games.
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The New Zealand international's trademark bull-at-a-gate style has made him a favourite among fans across the game and helped turn the tide for the Storm plenty of times.
Traditionally an explosive middle forward usually from the bench, the 24-year-old is usually able to expend 80 minutes worth of energy in a couple of 25-minute spells, but as a starting hooker has needed to be interchanged early in the second half in three straight games this year with Grant sidelined.
His coach has repeatedly praised his efforts and Smith told NRL.com he had no interest in moderating his efforts to try and increase his game time.
"I like playing hooker and showcasing my skills but it still feels a little bit foreign to me," Smith said.
"I guess I'm going to have to remodel my game, even my routine; usually I like to be super pumped up before I go on the field. It's a little bit different now.
"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."
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Pressed on whether he would have to adapt anything for the next few games before Grant's return, Smith said he would continue to do as coach Craig Bellamy asks.
"I guess I have to manage [my energy] differently but that's up to Bellsa," he added.
"I don't think Bellsa would want me to go out there and save my energy so I can last longer in the game, I think Bellsa wants me to go out there and give it 100%.
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"I'm not going to go out there and give 80% just so I can last 10 more minutes. I'd rather play 70 minutes at my full intensity than play 80 minutes at 75%."
Smith felt his work at hooker had been improving but also reiterated his desire to have Grant plus Ryan Papenhuyzen back as soon as possible.
"I think it's building good but I can't wait to have the big fella back to be honest," he said.
"I'm talking about Harry, Paps ain't quite 'the big fella', but I'm excited to have him back and get that one-two punch going together.
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"I think we can be a dangerous side with a full strength team. Full credit to Penrith as well, they had two key spine players out of the game.
"They gritted their teeth and were real tough. We hung in as well in the game, we didn't have much ball for a long time and hung in but it wasn't to be.
"We're still adjusting to life without Cam in our team. The game management's not there, we're playing a bit like little kids at the moment and we need to put the icing on the cake and take our opportunities but the best thing about it is we are creating the opportunities."