'I thought I was performing better than I actually was' - Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith determined to show what he's really capable of in Super League opener against Wakefield Trinity
England Knights forward Cameron Smith will dig deep for Leeds Rhinos this season.
Smith started 2020 in outstanding form, but a training ground injury kept him out of the side for six matches midway through the campaign and he accepts he didn’t reach his best after that.
Now raring to go after a full pre-season, the Pontefract-born back-rower is determined to show more of what he is capable of this term, starting in Saturday’s Betfred Super League round one derby against Wakefield Trinity.
“I didn’t get as much as I wanted to out of last year, I broke my jaw half-way through the year and I didn’t really kick on after that,” Smith admitted.
“I struggled with a little bit of consistency and maybe thought I was performing much better than I actually was.
“I have had a really good pre-season and hopefully you see a bit more from me, especially with the ball.”
Though only 22, Smith is entering his sixth season in Rhinos’ first team squad and has broken into the top 20 for the first time, having been awarded the number 17 jumper.
“I just want to make sure I am in [the matchday] 17,” he stressed.
“Obviously the squad number is nice, but hopefully it is just a stepping stone in what’s to come.”
Saturday’s game will mark the end of a long, three-month build-up.
The country has been in lockdown throughout and Rhinos’ training was shut down for more than a week after a Covid outbreak among players and staff.
Smith conceded there have been new challenges this time, but insisted nobody has looked for excuses.
“We’ve not been able to get everyone in at certain times,” he revealed.
“We have had to train in groups and we’ve been limited to what we can do, but the staff and the boys have just ripped in and made something good out of a bad situation.”
Rhinos have also been disrupted by injuries and the late arrivals of three overseas players and Smith reckons it will take them a while to fully find their feet in match action.
He added: “There’s only so much training you can do and I think everyone’s ready to have a game now.
“We’ll just look to improve week on week.
“It might take teams a couple of weeks to get running, but I am sure everybody’s ready to go and it is important we start well.
“We didn’t finish last year on the terms we wanted so we want to start well and then kick on.”
Rhinos fielded a makeshift team in their warm-up game at Huddersfield Giants two weeks ago, when they were without all four of their recognised half-backs.
Coach Richard Agar has refused to confirm if Luke Gale, who suffered a pectoral muscle in the first training session of pre-season, will play this weekend, but Smith stressed: “He’s our captain and a huge influence on our team, with his talk and getting us around the field.
“It would be a big boost, he is an incredible player.”
Agar is also being coy as to whether New Zealand Test forward Zane Tetevano will make his debut in three days’ time.
He was a late arrival to training and did not play against Giants, but Smith revealed: “He has settled in really well.
“He’s very experienced, played plenty of NRL and international games and he has been really good for us, showing us a few tricks and especially his mannerisms and the way he goes about training.
“It is incredible to watch him and learn from him.
“He will complement my game with how hard he carries the ball and he can also play a bit. “I am excited to be able to defend with him, he has a really big presence and I’m excited to see him rip in.”
As for Saturday, Smith predicted: “I am expecting a really tough, physical game.
“They will want to hit the ground running, they have got plenty of strong ball carriers and also players who can score from anywhere on the pitch.
“We will have to make sure we are on our game.”
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