Leeds Rhinos forward Cameron Smith (pictured) admits he’s ready for a big year in his development at Headingley and he says he’s eyeing a long-term run at loose-forward in the wake of 2019 captain Trent Merrin’s departure during the close season.
With Merrin leaving to return to the NRL with St George Illawarra Dragons, it creates a spot in Richard Agar’s side for someone else. Smith was given first run at the spot in the Boxing Day pre-season game against Wakefield Trinity and he impressed, scoring the opening try in their 30-4 win against Chris Chester’s side.
And the 21-year-old said after that game that he’s fully aware of the opportunity potentially at his disposal – and it is now up to him to take it.
He said: “Obviously with Trent going, it gives someone an opportunity. It gives me a chance to step in and grab that loose-forward spot if I can, and obviously I just want to take it game by game, to keep knocking on the door. Hopefully, that was a nice impression I made out there.”
Smith was in and out of the Leeds team throughout 2019, making twenty appearances in total, including ten in the starting lineup. And he insists that he’s been enjoying pre-season so far and he feels ready to make a big impact for the Rhinos in 2020.
“I feel like this year has been my best pre-season,” he said.
“It’s the fittest and strongest I’ve been, and I felt really good on Boxing Day. It’s about taking things game by game, but it is a big year for me and it’s time I cemented my spot in the first team. Boxing Day was a very good run-out. You can train as much as you want, but it was time we had a game. It went very well; there’s a good buzz around the team and we got the job done well.”
Meanwhile the fund that has been opened for former Leads star Rob Burrow, who was recently diagnosed with motor neurone disease, has now passed £200,000.
And the pre-season game against Bradford Bulls, which is scheduled for Sunday 12 January and had been set to be Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s Testimonial game, will now raise additional funds for Burrow.
League Express understands that all the seats for that game are likely to be sold out by the end of this week, with the Rhinos now expecting a near capacity crowd as the people of Leeds and Bradford, together with supporters of several other clubs, come together to pay tribute to the former Rhinos halfback.
By AARON BOWER and CHRIS JONES
© League Express Mon 30th Dec 2019