Legend has it that once, in response to a media question whether Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John Lennon quipped that he was not even the best drummer in the Beatles.
While it turns out that exchange was imagined, it is apt when thinking about Brandon Smith’s performance for the Roosters in Friday’s semi-final loss to the Storm.
Smith was spared that indignity of this line of questing in the post-game, but it will be a question playing on the mind of Trent Robinson and the club’s powerbrokers in the off-season.
And if it is not, it should be.
While one game in the cauldron of finals football should not end careers, you buy star players and pay them star money for the big moments, and the prospect that Smith came third in a two-horse dummy-half race will nag Robinson, particularly given the Kiwi international is taking an elite level dummy-half bite out of the Roosters salary cap.
Smith had been getting back to his best form for a few weeks in the lead-up to the game. Moreover, deliberately or because of his tongue got ahead of his brain, he stepped up to challenge his old crew and made it personal by describing the Storm’s performance the week before as ‘putrid.’
Accident or not he was issuing a rebel yell, signalling he was going to be in the first wave in the clash with Storm troopers. However, his verbal taunting makes his performance against his old team more worrying for his future at the Chooks.
He played with passion, commitment and courage. He threw everything he had at them, and it was his best game in a Roosters jersey. However, despite this Harry Grant shaded him.
Now, if had things ended there, a fair judge would conclude events had transpired according to the natural order of things. Although good, he was marginally bested by Grant. But Grant is the game’s best and so there is no shame in that. Grant has bested every other hooker in the game in the tight moments. However that was not the end of the story.
When Brandon had run himself to standstill, on came utility/dummy-half/ half Sandon Smith, and oh my, that is where the real trouble for the starting rake began.
Sandon was, in his cameo, sensational. For those brief moments he looked not just like the best hooker on the field but the best playmaker. He almost took the game off the Storm and all with only a busted-up back-rower and a plodding prop to work with.
Now of course, you can’t read too much into cameos, particularly ones so fleeting and deep in a torrid game where Brandon had weathered the hard minutes to that point.
Nonetheless, those few moments will play on Robinson’s mind over his summer of ‘what ifs.’ How could it not when their attack had spluttered all season and the suspicion is that is in part a result of Brandon’s limitations.
The one he has always had and that the Storm saw when they chose Grant over him. He is a devastating runner around the ruck of the highest order; a Tasmanian devil wrapped in a hurricane. However, in the tight races does his wrecking ball middle-forward style come at the expense of elite class dummy-half touches which unlock the rest of the team’s attacking threats.
On Friday, Grant showed him who was the best in the world; no surprises there. However, for moments late in a frenetic game, Sandon Smith put on a show that made you think Brandon was not even the best dummy-half option in the Roosters.