Former Super League winner and England international Lee Smith admits the time is right to retire from playing at the age of just 32 – but insists he’s still got plenty to offer the game as he embarks on a new career as a player agent.
Smith, who won the title with hometown club Leeds in 2007, 2008 and 2009, admits he does not want to ‘chase something that isn’t there’ having left Bradford at the end of last season, and has now decided to end his playing career.
However, speaking exclusively to League Express, Smith said he is already making plans for his next move in the sport – becoming an agent.
“I just feel like if I was to carry on playing, I’d be chasing something that wasn’t there,” he said.
“I just feel that mentally, it’s the right time to call it a day. I’ve achieved miles more than I thought I would have and I’m happy with it, but it’s time to move on and get out into the so-called real world.
“I signed for Leeds at 16 and I’ve never worked a day in my life and I feel like I’m coming out of school again in a way. But it was going to happen at some point – retirement comes to us all and I feel like it’s the right time to do that.”
Smith, with the guidance of the RFL, will sit his exams to become an officially registered agent in the coming months – and he says he’d been planning this move for some time.
“I’ve had a bit of time to think about it,” he revealed.
“Before I joined Bradford two years ago, I actually thought about retiring then. But the chance came to join Bradford and it excited me to try and keep them up. I enjoyed my time there and they’re back where I started with them which is nice to see.
“I had already started preparing mentally for retirement by then though.It’s been my ambition to become a sports agent for some time, and I’m taking steps through the RFL to try and do that.
“I want to thank Emma Rosewarne at the RFL; she’s helped me massively in terms of sitting the exams, and hopefully I’ll be sitting them soon and setting up my own agency. I’m passionate about guiding players through their career, because things can be tough sometimes. That side of it excites me and that’s influenced my decision to call it a day now.”
Smith continued: “I’ve still got lots to offer this sport. Agents can play a massive part in the career of young players in particular, and when you’ve been there and done it, the advice you’re giving hopefully means a bit more because you’ve experienced tough times in the sport.
“There’s some big pressure involved with playing this game, and hopefully I can get the message across that I’ve been there, done it and can help people when times are tough.”
Smith concluded: “To my mum, my grandma and my grandad, I’ve got to say thank you – especially for running me to junior training on those cold Tuesday and Thursday nights at Drighlington! Everyone involved there, and Leeds Rhinos: thank you. They’ve all been fantastic with me and were massive for me growing up.”