Storm take a punt on rough diamond Garbutt

WESTERN Suburbs prop Mitchell Garbutt is poised to sign with the Melbourne Storm after impressing the NRL heayweights with his performance in last month’s Newcastle Rugby League grand final.

The 22-year-old has been offered a one-year deal, with a second-season option.

Garbutt, who is expected to officially sign next week, would begin pre-season training in the Victorian capital next month.

The 120-kilogram, 192-centimetre big bopper was arguably the best front-rower in the local league this season and is renowned for his mobility and ball-playing skills.

In Wests’ 19-18 golden-point grand final loss to Maitland, many judges believed Garbutt was the man of the match, but the official award went to Pickers halfback Mick Moran.

But the performance did not go unnoticed.

Storm recruitment manager Darren Bell contacted Garbutt’s manager Chris Haddad only days after the game.

‘‘I was happy to keep playing in the local league, but I thought it was too good an opportunity, so I thought I would take it,’’ Garbutt said.

The Wests junior played Harold Matthews, SG Ball and under 20s for the Knights but was unwanted once he became too old for the National Youth Cup at the end of the 2009 season.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy is among the NRL’s leading coaches and has developed a reputation for turning rough diamonds into quality first-graders.

One of Bellamy’s recent success stories is 22-year-old Jesse Bromwich, who earned a nomination for Dally M prop of the year in his first full season in the top grade.

Garbutt said the opportunity to play under Bellamy was a massive lure.

Garbutt credited Rosellas coach Craig Miller for his stellar season and enabling him to attract the attention of the Storm. Previously Garbutt had been criticised for running sideways and forcing too many offloads.

‘‘Craig Miller helped me out a lot this year and showed me where I was going wrong,’’ he said. ‘‘I played a lot more direct and that came from him. ‘‘It’s all a calculated risk when you pass and you’re not going to get into trouble if it’s a good ball.’’

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