RISING PROSPECT Cameron Smith expects a clean slate to bring the best out of Leeds Rhinos’ squad next year.
Rhinos are rebuilding under coach David Furner with five players having left since the end of the 2018 campaign and four coming in.
It is Rhinos’ first pre-season under a newly-appointed head coach since Brian McDermott returned to the club in 2010 and Smith says the opportunity to impress is driving players on through the tough early stages of pre-season.
The 20-year-old, who was among the first batch of players to begin preparations two weeks ago, said Furner has stressed he has come to Leeds with no preconceived ideas.
“Dave has emphasised it’s a clean sheet for everybody,” he said.
“Everybody’s trying to impress and trying to give Dave a really good impression and hopefully cement a spot for the up-coming year.”
As a young player, that is exactly what Smith wants.
He added: “It is nice to see everybody’s now got the chance to impress and everybody’s back to square one, whereas before people had already cemented their spots due to past seasons and opinions from different coaches.
“It’s nice to see there’s a clean cut.
“I suppose it will bring the best out of everybody, if everybody’s fighting for a position why would it not?
“That’s the challenge, it is nice to see we’ve got quite a few young fellas in as well now so everybody’s going to be trying to get a shirt.”
Smith’s personal challenge is to force his way into Leeds’ team on a regular basis next term, having had a taste over the past three seasons and he reckons what happens over the coming weeks will have a huge bearing on that.
“I’m really excited,” said the former England academy captain.
“Obviously I have struggled with a couple of injuries in pre-seasons before so it will be good to get one under my belt and hopefully I can have a big year.”
Smith is under contract for 2019 with an option for another 12 months.
After two appearances in 2016 he featured once the following season when he also spent time on loan in the Betfred Championship with Bradford Bulls.
He really began to really make his mark in 2018 when he was handed his first start and scored four tries in 19 matches for the senior team.
“If I get as many games as I did last year I’ll be over the moon,” he said.
“I suppose I’ve got to build on what I’m doing and try and get better every game.
“If the opportunity comes up I will grasp it with both hands.”
Smith feels he is in a “miles better position” now than 12 months ago.
“That’s the special thing about rugby league, how quickly things can change,” he said.
“I came from adversity at Bradford and I came on and played nearly 20 games last season.
“Obviously it wasn’t the club’s best year, but I feel like it was my best year.
“I will look to kick on from that and hopefully get out there to impress Dave and get a spot.”