Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith making a name for himself
Two contrasting games into Leeds Rhinos’ season, there has been only one constant - the eye-catching performances from loose-forward Cameron Smith.
Smith - who shares a name with one of the NRL and recent Test rugby's greats - had a strong game defensively when Leeds lost to Hull in Betfred Super League round one, then ran in a try double as they got off the mark with a 52-10 hammering of Hull KR last Friday.
The Castleford Panthers product started both matches at loose-forward and has made no secret of his desire to nail down a regular spot in Rhinos’ 13 this season.
“It’s the first time I’ve scored two tries for Leeds,” he said of the victory four days ago.
“I couldn’t have asked for easier tries, just pushing up through the middle - I was absolutely buzzing.”
Smith’s brace made his Rhinos’ joint-leading try scorer, alongside Harry Newman who also crossed twice against Hull KR and Ash Handley who has touched down in both matches.
He admitted: “I’m not sure I will be able to keep that up- but I will give it my best shot!
“When I was a bit younger I was a bit of a try scorer, but I am just trying to work hard now and give lots of enthusiasm and energy and show up when other people don’t want to show up.
“The two tries on Friday were both from supporting and showing up.”
Smith impressed in pre-season and made a strong start to the year as Leeds’ top tackler, with 61, in the 30-4 defeat by Hull.
He made a more modest, but still impressive, 41 against Hull KR and is “really happy” with the way he has begun the campaign.
Now 21, Smith is in his fifth season as a Rhinos first team squad member and, with his contract expiring in the autumn, it is a crucial year for him personally.
“I feel it is a chance to really showcase what I can do,” he said.
“Obviously I can’t get carried away, I’ve just got to take it week by week and keep improving on performances.”
It is a similar story for the team, who have fought relegation battles in four of the past five seasons - winning the Grand Final in the other.
The half-century against Hull KR was their first since 2017 and suggested they could have a much better year if they find some consistency.
“I thought we were really good,” Smith said of last week’s performance.
“We had a little patch of five minutes when we lost our way a little bit, but I am buzzing that we got a win and the mood’s really good in camp.
“We didn’t have chance to get a hit out against Huddersfield [which was postponed] so we were raring to go and get a good hit out and show what we can do.
“It was a collective performance and we were willing to work hard for each other, but it’s important not to get carried away.
“We have to keep building performance on performance.”
Leeds ran in nine tries and conceded only two and Smith felt both sides of their game were on point.
He said: “It’s 50-50, a game of attack and defence.
“Our attack was really good and we looked really dangerous and if we nail that defence and keep teams to two tries, you’d like to think the majority of times we will come away with a win.”
Leeds face a big challenge on Saturday at last year’s Grand Final runners-up Salford Red Devils. Rhinos have a good record at AJ Bell Stadium, but the hosts will be smarting after losing two of their opening three matches .
“We are taking it game-by-game,” Smith pledged. “We have to take the positives and work on the negatives. There’s some good vibes around the place and it’s a lot happier in camp this week, but we need to build on it. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins now, keep on track and keep in the grind.”