Jahrome Hughes, who finished last season at halfback, would shift to the centres to cover for the expected departure of Curtis Scott to Canberra.
The move would make it even more difficult for Brodie Croft, already on the outer, to earn a halves spot in 2020.
The Melbourne brains trust came up with the plan in a bid to maximise the talents on their roster after Smith confirmed he would be playing on in 2020. The 36-year-old had indicated he may have played his last game after his side’s preliminary final loss to the Roosters, but has now opted to see out the final year of his contract.
A shift into from hooker to halfback could have a number of benefits for Smith and the Storm. Smith made 1,059 tackles last season at an average of 39 per match, a load that would drop dramatically if he is no longer defending in the middle of the field. It could even prolong Smith’s career and tempt him to play on in 2021, giving him the chance to increase his games appearance record to a mark that will never be challenged.
Another consideration is the fact that Smith often plays like a pseudo-halfback already. Not only does he already possess the kicking and passing games of the best No.7s, the two-time Dally M medalist could still manage a game just as effectively from first receiver.
The move would also allow provide an opportunity for Brandon Smith to become more involved while still learning from the game’s best hooker, assisting the transition to when Smith eventually retires.
Smith’s preference is to retain the No.9 jersey, although he didn’t rule out a shift altogether when Bellamy put the proposal to him. The pair will likely continue to go through the pros and cons before an ultimate call is made.
Smith indicated his was in the right headspace to play on for a 19th NRL season after enjoying a six-week break.
“I haven’t spoken to Craig officially about next year; we’ve had some discussions about the way I’ve pulled up from the season just gone and where I’m at, at the moment, with my thoughts on next year,” Smith told AAP last week.
“I must say I feel a lot better than I did a week or two weeks after we finished up. It takes a little bit to get over that disappointment, I guess more so now being older and knowing that the chances are running out.
“But I feel a lot better now about playing on next year and this will be a good chance to see what his thoughts are.”
The Storm need to shed at least one player to be salary cap compliant next year. Scott’s move to the Raiders is expected to be finalised in coming days, while Croft may also exit despite initial talks with Brisbane breaking down.
Smith may not be the only dummy half experiencing a change in 2020. The Dragons confirmed the signing of Issac Luke on a one-year deal after the Warriors opted not to offer him an extension.
“To have a really established back-up player of his calibre is exciting,” said St George Illawarra’s list manager Ian Millward.
“Our coaching staff were keen to have him on our roster with plans in mind regarding how they’d like to play him, which have already been discussed with Issac as well as Cameron (McInnes).”
In other signing news, Wests Tigers’ Alex Twal, Canberra’s Sam Williams and Gold Coast’s Phillip Sami all recommitted to their clubs on new two-year deals.
Warriors playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita has also re-signed on a deal that will keep him at the club until the end of 2022.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.