AFTER A season learning his trade at Bradford Bulls, teenager Cameron Smith wants to make his Leeds Rhinos breakthrough in 2018.
The England academy captain played just once for Rhinos this year, in the 34-0 Betfred Super League round 23 loss at Wigan Warriors.
He made his debut on loan for Bulls in May and scored one try in 11 appearances for the Championship outfit.
Smith, 19, a product of the Castleford Panthers club, has been awarded Rhinos’ No27 jersey for the second successive season and says he is still learning, but also looking to start catching the eye of Leeds boss Brian McDermott.
“I am hoping to play more for Leeds this year,” Smith said.
“I am learning, I am still young.
“I enjoyed my time at Bradford last year, I got some good game time in the Championship which is obviously a different level, but I feel like I’ve gained a lot from that.
“I just hope to get as many games under my belt as I can this year and just carry on learning and see where it goes.”
Smith is contracted to Rhinos until the end of 2019, but next year will be his last as an academy-qualified player.
“This is probably the year I do need to kick on,” he admitted.
“I am ready for the challenge. I haven’t set a target [for how many games he wants to play].
“I will take it as it comes, but hopefully if I get an opportunity I’ll take it.
“I am just trying to learn as much as I can from each training session and gain from that.”
Bulls were relegated to League One at the end of the 2017 season after having 12 points deducted before the season began.
It was a traumatic year for the former Super League champions with the club closing last January and being reformed under new management, but Smith came through it battled-hardened and used to playing against men.
He added: “The club was in a bit of adversity, but luckily I got the opportunity to go and play with them and it was a different experience.
“Obviously we didn’t win many, I think I won about three games, but it has bettered me as a player, experiencing that adversity.
“I was just happy to be there and meet a great bunch of blokes and play with them week in and week out.”
Smith was among the first batch of Rhinos players who began pre-season training last week.
“I enjoyed my time off, but I was itching to get back,” he said.
“I only had three weeks off, but I am excited to be back and see what 2018 brings.”
Smith captained England academy in two recent internationals against France.
“We won the first Test, 19-18,” he recalled. “That was a tough game. The second Test, they just pipped us.
“We took a touring side so we had a couple of boys switching about and we had to adapt to that, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”