It took until 24 minutes into Game Three for Harry Grant to enter the Origin arena for the first time but don’t expect him to be out of the Maroons jersey for another 10 years.
In the same way he dominated the NRL during his rookie of the year season with the Wests Tigers, the 22-year-old was an instant hit at state level.
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Wayne Bennett pulled a masterstroke by keeping the young hooker in his back pocket until it mattered most – and you could hear the fear in Phil Gould’s voice the moment he took the field.
It wasn’t long before he was slicing the Blues’ defence apart with his runs from dummy-half and outside of Wally Lewis Medallist Cameron Munster no one had a bigger impact in Queensland’s stunning 20-14 win.
The Maroons had more than 60 per cent of possession for most of the match with Grant playing a big part, making two line breaks himself and causing havoc around the ruck.
But it was when he scored a 63rd minute try, bursting over from dummy half in a huge show of strength, he confirmed he was here to stay and prompted Gould to give the Rockhampton product the ultimate compliment.
“I hate putting raps on young fellas like this … but I can remember when Cameron Smith played his first Origin game, back in 2003, and he got our attention straight away and I walked away and I said, ’well, Origin just might have changed forever’,” he said.
“And I think this fella Harry Grant could well have a similar effect on this Maroons generation. He’s such a livewire. He’s so aggressive. He’s so talented. And every time he’s touched the ball tonight, he has tested the Blues’ defence.
“I’m not saying he’s Cameron Smith – that would be a ridiculous thing to say. But tonight, he’s had a similar effect. You can see it from the time he’s taken the field.”
Grant is so talented he forced the first loan deal in NRL history this season, moving temporarily to the Tigers because he deserved to be playing first-grade football but was being kept out of Melbourne’s side by one of the greatest players ever.
He also has New Zealand international hooker Brandon Smith to contend with for a spot at the Storm but it would appear the starting position is his to lose off the back of last night.
“He’s a freak. He’s lucky he’s staying at the Storm, so unlucky Tigers,” Munster said on Channel 9.
It may also be unlucky for the Blues.
Grant looks set to form a scary combination with halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster and if Kalyn Ponga can nail down fullback the Maroons will have gone a long way to finding their long-term replacements for superstar quartet Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
Grant described his first taste of Origin as “the best feeling ever” and Bennett declared his young star was “what we needed” after starting hooker Jake Friend set a platform for success.
“Jake did a lot of work for the first 25 minutes — it’s a lot different coming off the bench than starting a game,” Bennett said. “Harry was what we needed, it’s the reason I did what I did to keep that momentum that Jake would be building out there and getting us into the groove and for him to come on and take advantage of that. And he did that magnificently.”
There were plenty of former players watching on with admiration, including former Blues hooker Michael Ennis who said Grant will “be in that number nine jersey for a long, long time — he’s a super player”.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy offered an insight into Grant’s willingness to take advice with an example from earlier in his career.
“Harry obviously was playing Queensland Cup and we could see that he had something about him but after the (2018) season we had a review and I said ‘how often do you sit down with Cameron and talk about being a dummy half?’,” Bellamy said.
“He sort of looked sideways and said ‘I don’t’. I said, ‘You’ve got the best-ever dummy half here, probably the best-ever player that’s played the game in your position and you don’t talk to him about things that happen on the field and where you can improve and what his ideas are?’
“The next year, every time I come to my office him and Harry were sitting in front of a computer.”
The handsome youngster appears a marketer’s dream.
He has said all the right things while endearing himself to Tigers’ supporters this season and regularly takes his mum, Margie, along to awards nights.
With dual loves of footy and surfing a crop of blonde hair, he’s as Aussie as it gets so expect to hear plenty more from Mr Harry Grant.