Leeds Rhinos’ Cameron Smith vows to bounce back from his Cup final setback

CAMERON SMITH says he will bounce back better from the biggest setback of his fledgling Leeds Rhinos career.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 6:00 am

The loose-forward, a regular in Leeds’ side this year until suffering a broken jaw in training two months ago, was left out of the team for last Saturday’s Coral Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

The 21-year-old received a winner’s medal and took part in the celebrations following Rhinos’ 17-16 defeat of Salford Red Devils, but admitted it was a painful blow to take, particularly after having played in the semi-final win over Wigan Warriors.

“It was pretty tough,” Smith said. “It didn’t really sink in until we’d actually won the trophy, how upset I was.

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Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith is tackled by St Helens' James Roby. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“The hardest part was telling my family and the people around me.

“I am from Castleford which is a big rugby league community and I had lots of messages asking if I was playing.

“It was hard to tell them I wasn’t

“It is just one of those, the timing and me breaking my jaw – there’s a couple of reasons why.

Leeds Rhinos loose-forward Cameron Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“But I will make it my goal now to get back in and make sure I am there for the business end of the season when hopefully we get into the top-four.”

A similar thing happened to Kevin Sinfield in 2000 and Danny McGuire three years later and they went on to become two of Rhinos’ all-time greats, both appearing in multiple Challenge Cup finals and each winning the trophy twice.

Sinfield is now Rhinos’ director of rugby and Smith said: “There’s a fair few big names in the game who have missed out on finals.

“I had a long conversation with Kev about it and I will use this as fuel now to motivate me to get back in the team and hopefully there’ll be plenty more trophies down the line.

Cameron Smith attempts to stop St Helens' Alex Walmsley from scoring a try. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“I have had a little taste of it now, not being part of the actual playing squad and the next time will feel even better.”

Smith missed five games after his jaw was broken, but said he is now “fully fit”.

He stressed: “I just need to get some minutes under my belt now.

“I have only played 40-something minutes in the middle since coming back.

“I am just hoping to get some game time.”

Rhinos return to Betfred Super League action tomorrow when they visit champions and league leaders St Helens at the start of a spell of five games in 14 or 15 days.

They are fifth in the table and need a win to keep up the pressure on fourth-placed Catalans Dragons.

Saints are unbeaten in the league since the coronavirus shutdown ended and thrashed Leeds 48-0 at Emerald Headingley in August.

“We are treating every game as the same, we have got to win,” Smith said.

“We have got our eyes on the top-four.

“There’s plenty of games coming up in a short space of time and we are fortunate enough to have plenty of talented young kids in our side so I can’t see that being a problem for us.”

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