New Tigers hooker Harry Grant reminds Michael Maguire of Cameron Smith

Harry Grant has only played two NRL games but when Michael Maguire watches the former Storm rake he cannot help but be reminded of Cameron Smith.

It’s the little things in hooker Harry Grant’s game which remind Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire of all-time great Cameron Smith.

The Tigers recruit has only played two NRL games for the Storm but Maguire, who worked with Smith from 2005-09 while an assistant coach with Melbourne, can see the same footy smarts and awareness around the ruck.

“He understands the fundamentals,’’ Maguire said of the Yeppoon Seagulls junior. “When you’re at dummy half it’s about controlling the ball and telling markers which way you want them to go. It’s his perception around the game.

“All the little movements ingrained in a No.9 are what Harry has had in his game over a long period of time and that’s what makes the top-end dummy halves who they are.

“The way Cameron plays, he makes it so easy, but he’s been doing it so long it’s a habit that is formed.

“And with Harry, what I’m seeing from him are similar attributes.”

Tigers great Robbie Farah retired at the end of last season but the youngster earmarked to replace him, Jacob Liddle, suffered an ACL injury in August.

Maguire turned to Josh Reynolds and more recently Grant’s former Storm teammate Billy Walters to play hooker in the opening two rounds of this interrupted season.

However, Maguire gave the best indication that Grant is still in the running to claim the position when he said he preferred a “traditional” hooker.

His comment suggested Walters’ days are numbered as the Tigers’ first-choice hooker.

“We had Jacob Liddle out with his knee injury [ACL],” Maguire said. “It meant we needed a traditional dummy half.

“Billy Walters has done some good things for us. We’ve used Josh Reynolds there but he’s spent most of his time at five-eighth and it’s the time you spend in a certain position that allows you to be at the top level.

“One thing about Harry is, he has played hooker all his life.”

Grant is expected to lock down the hooking spot. Picture by Adam Yip.
Grant is expected to lock down the hooking spot.

Stuck behind Smith and feisty rake Brandon Smith at the Storm, Grant’s talent was being wasted in reserve grade.

Maguire recognised that and was so keen to bring the 22-year old to Concord that he helped engineer the NRL’s first swap deal with the Storm, exchanging outside back Paul Momirovski for Grant.

Both players will return to their respective sides next year when the loan deal expires.

This type of deal is commonplace in the English Super League, where Maguire coached the Wigan Warriors in 2010 and 2011.

Maguire said loan deals helped players gain experience in the top grade rather than being stuck in reserve grade.

“I was aware of loan deals from my time over in England and we spoke about it as a club,’’ he said.

“We’re a club that wants to improve fast and we needed to look outside of what was going on.

“I did it when I was overseas. I spent a player, Josh Charnley, off to Hull KR when he was behind one of the more senior players.

“He went away and played some of the best games I had seen a winger play.

“I brought this player back in and he never went back to reserve grade.

“It’s an effective way of bringing young talent into a team and helping the competition itself.”

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