Cameron Smith hasn't returned to clean out his Melbourne Storm locker but even if he decides to use it again, Harry Grant isn't going anywhere.
The NRL premiers started pre-season training on Monday, with a number of their State of Origin stars back at AAMI Park two weeks ahead of schedule.
Dale Finucane was one such player, with a seven-hour trip from Bega to Melbourne stretched to 17 hours as he pushed to get across the NSW-Victoria border last weekend before it was shut.
NSW winger Josh Addo-Carr remained in Sydney and will require an exemption or be forced into two weeks hotel quarantine ahead of his January 18 pre-season start date.
Despite helping Queensland secure the Origin series in November, Grant didn't get a delayed start after having some additional time off due to his 2020 club Wests Tigers missing the finals.
Grant, 22, was loaned to the Tigers by the Storm and had a breakout season on the way to being named Dally M rookie of the year.
He will be Melbourne's starting hooker this year, unless Smith shocks the club by returning for a 20th season.
Having received no word from the captain, they are preparing to defend their title without him.
"I think he's still on his book tour," Grant said of Smith.
"He's probably got a few more weeks before he's usually back and we'll go from there but I'm here - I've got a few more years at the Storm and I'm excited to be back down here.
"It doesn't really feel like I left, the majority of the squad are still here and it's good to be back."
The Storm hadn't been at their Melbourne headquarters since June last year, when they were forced to relocate to the Sunshine Coast due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.
Grant watched on as they beat Penrith in the grand final and was hopeful he could be a part of a premiership side in 2021.
"It was pretty special watching the boys win the comp after all they went through, being based on the Sunny Coast, away from Melbourne," he said.
"I wasn't really a part of it but I'm looking forward to building towards that this season."
He said the player swap with Wests Tigers, where he got regular game time after being stuck behind both Cameron Smith and Brandon Smith in Melbourne, had made him a genuine first-grader.
"I've come back with a bit more experience and a bit more confidence in the NRL arena," he said.
"I wouldn't be in the position I am today without the Storm and Tigers doing the loan deal."
Australian Associated Press