NRL 2020: Melbourne Storm, Harry Grant and Stunning Origin launch compelling case for loan deals

Storm officials have always believed Harry Grant was destined to play State of Origin, but a swap deal with Wests Tigers hastened his debut and the 22-year-old made a convincing case for a loan system in the LNR playing in the Queensland 20-14 Triumph on Wednesday night.

Grant had previously been the pin-up for player loans after stepping out of the shadows of Cameron and Brandon Smith to win the NRL Rookie of the Year award, but her 56-minute performance for the Maroons has demonstrated the benefits of passing hooker with the Tigers.

Prior to trading clubs with Tigers center Paul Momirovski for the 2020 season, Grant had only made two appearances for Melbourne, but he has now played 17 NRL games and played in an Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.

“If there was a similar situation in the future, we would certainly see it again, without a shadow of a doubt.” Storm said football general manager Frank Ponissi.



The beginnings are better and better for Harry Grant

“He comes back to us as a much better player than when he left which is fantastic for us, and we really appreciate the Tigers for the way they developed him and the way Madge [Michael Maguire] was taking care of him. I thought it was great.

While loan deals are rife in European sports, including the Super League, it took months of negotiations before the NRL approved the Grant-Momirovski swap.

The Warriors have also benefited from loan deals involving Penrith striker Jack Hetherington, Sydney Roosters forward Poasa Faamausili and Parramatta pair Daniel Alvaro and George Jennings after being forced to move to Australia when the season of the NRL resumed due to border restrictions.

Hetherington has since signed with Canterbury, Faamausili has joined St George Illawarra and Jennings moves to Melbourne next season, while Alvaro remains with the Eels.

“I think this year has shown what is achievable,” said Clint Newton, CEO of RLPA. “We have always advocated exploring loan-type arrangements as long as it’s done the right way and the players are included in the process, and both parties can come to an agreement.

“I saw how it worked in the Super League, we saw how it worked in other codes and I thought it worked really well a few times this year, so I think it’s something that the game can continue to explore.

“In circumstances where it is being managed, like that of Harry Grant – it is the perfect case and it was the right decision, and the benefits have been visible to everyone.”



Cook supports Grant as a long-term Maroon

If the deal had not been in place, Grant would have had little chance of playing this season as the second tier NSWRL and QRL competitions were canceled due to COVID-19.

However, Ponissi said Grant was ready for regular NRL action, so the Storm wanted to find an opportunity for him to play while he bided his time behind Cameron and Brandon Smith.

“Harry was really, really excited and even when the deal was on the rocks Harry was really, really pushing him,” Ponissi said. “He just wanted to play the NRL, he knew he was ready and we knew he was ready, so he was a great driver in it.”

Asked if he also thought Grant was ready for Origin, Ponissi said, “We always thought he would play Origin, we just didn’t know it would be so soon. We weren’t surprised at the quality of his play, but playing 56 minutes in a State of Origin game at Suncorp Stadium given he hadn’t played football in eight weeks was an extraordinary effort. It was huge ”.



Match Highlights: Maroons vs. Blues

Ponissi said he didn’t expect loan deals to become commonplace in the NRL, but that they would be easier to negotiate after the success of the Grant-Momirovski exchange.

“Paul Momirovski also got to play more football and if he hadn’t been injured he probably would have been part of our squad for the grand final,” he said.

“He was in our 13th start and he got injured, which allowed Brenko Lee to take that central right position, so Paul took advantage of that as well.

“It was difficult to do because it was the first one, but it would be easier next time. We’ve been through a lot of things, like what would happen if he got hurt, what if we lost Brandon Smith or Cameron Smith, what do we do then?

“We were imagining all these different scenarios, like he’s going to the club and he really loves it and doesn’t want to come back?” We went through all of this internally because it was brand new to us.

Grant has signed with the Storm for the next two years with a mutual option for 2023 and intends to return to Melbourne for preseason training in January.