Seagulls to the Storm: The rising star of rugby league
RUGBY LEAGUE: Harry Grant’s star is well on the rise but it’s clear the humble young champ will never forget where the trajectory started.
He credits the Yeppoon Seagulls, St Brendan’s College and the rugby league heartland of Central Queensland as being instrumental in his development, both as a player and as a person.
“The Seagulls really taught me to love the game and if you don’t love the game, if you don’t love what you do, you probably won’t be good at it,” he said.
“I have so many great memories from those early days. As a young fella I remember running around barefoot in my baggy Seagulls jersey.
“I think my time with the Seagulls and Brendan’s helped me build that pathway to get me where I am now.
“I love getting back home to Yeppoon whenever I get the chance.
“Moving away has made me realise just how lucky I was to grow up in that community. It’s a pretty special place.”
Harry is one of the most exciting young hookers in the game and last week extended his NRL contract with the Melbourne Storm until the end of the 2022 season.
The 21-year-old was elevated to the Storm’s full-time squad in June and has impressed the club’s coaching staff with his continued development and excellent form with feeder club, the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
Harry, who represented Queensland as a schoolboy and at under-18 and under-20 level, played 22 games for the Falcons in the Intrust Super Cup this season.
He scored 14 tries, had 21 try assists, made 879 tackles and averaged 99.9 running metres per game.
He was third in the Petero Civoniceva Medal tally, was the Falcons Player of the Year, was selected in the ISC Team of the Year and was also the Storm’s Feeder Club Player of the Year.
Harry is looming as a genuine successor to the Storm’s legendary hooker, Cameron Smith, and so was understandably keen to ink the new two-year deal.
“I’m pretty excited for what lies ahead,” he said.
“I think the best thing for my football development-wise is to stay put in Melbourne and see where it leads me.
“I feel I have developed a lot, both on and off the field, in the last couple of years.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a consistent player but I feel Melbourne has taken it to another level.”
Harry moved to Melbourne in 2017 and was made captain of the club’s NYC side.
He made his NRL debut in 2018 and played his second game at the top level this year.
He is determined to grow that number this season and wants to learn as much as he can from players such as Smith.
“I want to build on my 2019 form and I want to build my game and certain parts of my game, including my game management,” Harry said.
“I’m going to try to tap into Cameron Smith a lot and try and take as much as I can from him this year in that department.
“He helped me a lot through 2019, and I picked up a lot of little things.
“He’s got a reason for everything he does. I’ve never asked a question and been left wondering - he’s always given me an answer and it’s always been spot on.”
Harry firmly believes that things happen for a reason.
Ironically, it was a devastating run of illness and injury in his teenage years that would ultimately lead him from the halves into the hooking role.
In the six years from under-13 to under-18, he played only two years of football.
A staph infection in his shoulder when he was 13 and then a compound fracture of his right leg kept him sidelined for the best part of three years.
“I came back at the end of Year 10 and that was probably a blessing in disguise,” he said.
“I made the transition from the halves to hooker only because the school team needed a hooker.
“I put my hand up because I just wanted to play footy.”
Injury would strike again when he first moved to Melbourne. He suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season which kept him out for the whole year and just as he was set to return he did it again.
Harry was determined to turn a heartbreaking negative into a positive.
“I feel like when you face adversity it makes you want it more, it makes you strong as a person.
“If I didn’t have those first couple of injuries I might not have come back and played hooker.
“I think my greatest strength is that I work hard – that applies to everything.
“Whatever it is, I don’t want to leave a stone unturned so I did it to the best of my ability.
“Once I got myself into the top squad I realised that if you work hard enough things happen for you.
“I love this game and I’m now lucky enough to do it day in, day out.”