Leigh Centurions have revealed that England Knights hooker Aaron Smith has joined the club on a season-long loan from Betfred Super League three-times champions St Helens.
Smith, 25, already has a Centurions Heritage Number (HN#1477) after making five appearances on dual-registration in 2019, and he told LCTV that he was relishing his return to Leigh Sports Village.
“I’ve had a small glimpse of what playing for Leigh is like before, and I’m really looking forward to pulling on the shirt and showing the fans what I can do,” he said.
“I want to have a good year and help the club achieve its aim of winning the competition.”
Smith, who played in Saints’ 2019 Grand Final victory over Salford Red Devils, recently scored two tries and played a starring role in the Knights’ 54-6 win over Jamaica at Castleford to put himself in contention for a place in the 2022 World Cup squad.
Paying tribute to Saints legend James Roby, who he has understudied for several years, Smith said: “I’ve always looked up to James as a role model. He’s an unbelievable player and a really nice guy. He’s always there to encourage you and help you with your game. Unfortunately for me he plays big minutes and it’s always a struggle to get in ahead of him.
“Being part of that St Helens team has been an unbelievable experience. To get three titles in a row is credit to all the lads and the coaching staff for their dedication, hard work and all the sacrifices they have made on the back of Covid.”
Smith, who graduated through the Academy ranks at Saints, actually made his Super League debut for Hull Kingston Rovers during a loan spell in the 2018 season. He made his Saints’ debut later that year against Catalan Dragons.
Leigh Head of Rugby Chris Chester said: “Aaron has been a great player for Saints, but with his game time limited will now have the opportunity to play regularly for the next 12 months.
“He’s been a great understudy to James Roby and has got a really good work ethic and skill base. Everyone I’ve spoken to gives him good wraps and says what a good kid he is.
“He played exceptionally in the England Knights game and he’s an important signing for us. We are getting the spine of the team together now and with Aaron playing in such a pivotal position I jumped at the chance to sign him.
“I’d like to thank the Saints CEO Mike Rush and head coach Kristian Woolf for their help in this loan deal, which will be of mutual benefit, and which confirms the excellent relationship between the two clubs.”