Cameron Smith says Melbourne rake Harry Grant is more dangerous than ever after adding a key component to his game and has warned critics not to write off the Storm’s premiership claims.
Smith, a three-time Storm premiership winner and widely regarded as the greatest No.9 of the modern era, mentored Grant at Melbourne in the formative stages of the young hooker's career.
The pair have also worked together in Queensland's State of Origin camps, with Smith an assistant coach for the Maroons under Billy Slater.
Smith says Grant is ready to have a key impact on the finals series, starting with the Storm’s NRL clash against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
“Harry’s game has improved because he has shown a lot more patience this year compared to the past,” Smith told AAP.
“It was one part of his game he wanted to be better at.
“When he burst on the scene he was a very industrious and exciting ball carrier.
"The strongest part of Harry’s game is his running, but he would admit that he may have overplayed his hand a little bit in those first couple of years.
“Now he is really just trying to pick his times to come up with his passing, kicking and running.
"He has been a lot more selective with that this year and it makes him a far more dangerous player.”
The Storm don’t want to minimise Grant’s strength but the Melbourne hooker learned some tough lessons in the disappointing 2021 and 2022 finals series about how to go about his work.
“Harry just wanted to be a little bit more efficient, because watching him in his early seasons he would run himself ragged with the amount of work he was doing with and without the ball,” Smith said.
“He is more patient and picking his times to get out and play a bit of footy. It is having a great impact on the way the Storm are playing.”
Broncos hooker Billy Walters said shutting down Grant would be “a lot easier said than done”.
“You've got to probably make him tackle as much as you can and not give them as many good ball opportunities,” he said.
The Storm have not been as consistent this year as in previous seasons and are viewed by pundits as unlikely to win the premiership from third position, but that won’t concern the inner sanctum.
“I just warn people to be careful about writing the Storm off,” Smith said.
“It has been done many times in the past and they have turned around and proved a lot of people wrong.
“They are a good footy side and when it all goes right for them they can beat anyone in the competition.”
Smith said it was incumbent on spine members Nick Meaney, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Grant and bench impact man Ryan Papenhuyzen to fire.
"It is just so important that the key players play well," he said.