Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith 'chuffed' to be back in action but looking for improvement in Catalans Dragons rematch
Long-term injury victim Cameron Smith says he is “chuffed to bits” to be back in action for Leeds Rhinos, but admits he needs to step up his performance.
Smith made his comeback, after almost three months on the sidelines, when Rhinos lost 26-18 to Betfred Super League leaders Catalans Dragons last Friday.
The 22-year-old forward suffered a hamstring tendon tear against Wigan Warriors in April and admitted his return was “a real shock to the system after having 12 weeks out”.
It was his first game in front of fans since March last year, after a planned comeback the previous week had to be put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He recalled: “I had to do a 10-day isolation, with limited training, then just to do the team run and play, it was a shock to the system, but I am extremely grateful to be back on the field.
“It gave me goosebumps when I came out, with the South Stand noise.
“It seemed really abnormal playing in front of a crowd, but I am chuffed to bits to be back on the field, despite the result.”
Smith confirmed his problem hamstring got through the game with no adverse reaction, though he will have to manage it through the rest of the campaign.
“It’s all right,” he said.
“I am just having issues with the tightness around it, which is playing up a little bit.
“But that’s nothing to worry about, it’s just something I’ll have to maintain and keep on top of.
“I didn’t need surgery, it was just hanging on by a thread so I didn’t need to be operated on.
“It could have been a five-month job, instead of three.”
Having to isolate was a “kick in the teeth” when Smith was on the verge of being available for selection.
He said: “I was just starting to do my return to play.
“I was supposed to play against Leigh, but my missus tested positive for Covid.
“That’s the world we live in now and it’s just important that she is healthy and everyone around me that it affected is healthy.
“It was just one of those things that was out of my control.”
Smith was brought off the bench in the first half against Catalans, who Rhinos visit for the return fixture this Friday.
“I felt really clunky,” he admitted.
“Obviously, I’ve not picked up where I left off, but I can’t really blame anyone other than myself.
“I thought I had a couple of good touches, but other than that, on my overall performance, I am not too happy with how I went.
“But I suppose I can build on that performance now - give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be back in my groove.”
The defeat ended Rhinos’ four-game winning run and was Catalans’ eighth successive win, which is a club record.
For Leeds, it completed a draining schedule of four games in 13 days and they led by 10 points at half-time before running out of steam in the final 40 minutes.
“I think we were our own worst enemy,” Smith reflected.
“There were a couple of yardage errors at key moments, they kicked a 40-20 in a crucial point in the game and a bit of ruck control got away from us in the second half.
“But you can’t take anything away from Catalans, they were really good, especially in the second half.”
Leeds will have an opportunity to reverse that result in four days’ time.
Smith said: “That’s the beauty of it, we get another crack now.
“We can rest up over the weekend, be honest with ourselves in review, look at what we can fix up and get back on it.
“Hopefully we can get back to winning ways this week.”
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