Wigan Warriors forward Morgan Smithies has become this season’s Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year, beating off the challenge of five other candidates – Alex Walker of London Broncos, Ratu Naulago of Hull FC, Jack Welsby of St Helens, Joey Lussick of Salford Red Devils and Harry Newman of Leeds Rhinos – who were shortlisted in last week’s League Express to win the solid silver medal and a cash prize of £500.
Smithies, 18, made his debut off the bench for the Warriors in Round 8 of Super League against Catalans Dragons at the DW Stadium. And he has been a virtual ever-present since then, making 21 Super League appearances in all.
Smithies shone in last season’s Academy Test series against Australia. He was allocated squad number 38 by Wigan for 2019, suggesting that he was not expected to make many appearances for the first team.
But since making his debut he has consistently shone, much to the delight of Wigan Chairman Ian Lenagan.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that at the start of the season we would not have expected Morgan to play 20 games,” Lenagan told League Express.
“We signed him from Siddal a couple of years ago. He came to prominence playing for England against Australia and since then the way he has stood up to the big teams in Super League is quite remarkable.
“I’ve watched him week after week, and it’s that extra two metres he always makes at the end of the charge that is very special. The way he makes that extra distance is superb.
“He has made an enormous number of tackles and has missed very few, while he hasn’t been over faced when opposing great players like Thompson and Walmsley. He has always stood up in those situations.”
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