Bevan French and Will Smith in Parramatta's new jersey for the indigenous round. Picture: Brett Costello
Bevan French and Will Smith in Parramatta's new jersey for the indigenous round. Picture: Brett Costello

Lightweight Eel to slug it out with the big dogs

IF PARRAMATTA utility Will Smith lost a kilo, he would be the lightest player in the NRL.

So on Friday night at ANZ Stadium he knows exactly what is coming.

Or more specifically, who.

"I'm sure all Canterbury's forwards will be running at me," the 84kg Eel said. "But that's nothing new.

"I think in most NRL games these days the halves and hookers are targeted defensively.

"Opposition packs try to wear you out. So I'll be no different. I just need to get out there and do my job."

While no stranger to filling gaps in the Parramatta backline - "I think I've played most positions out there" - Smith will play his first starting game as a hooker in Friday Night Football.

Eels coach Brad Arthur effectively tossing him right into the guts of that traditional Parramatta versus Canterbury rivalry.

 

Will Smith joins in at training. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Will Smith joins in at training. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Wearing No.9 in place of an injured Kaysa Pritchard, Smith knows he may as well be wearing a giant, red target for the likes of heavyweight Bulldogs Dave Klemmer, Aaron Woods and Josh Jackson.

"But I just need to do my thing," the 25-year-old said.

"Run when the opportunity is there and make sure my service is strong from dummy-half.

"I'm just really grateful the Brad (coach Arthur) has faith in me to do the job.

"I want to repay that.

"I've never started at hooker although I did play most of a game there last year when Kaysa got kayoed in the opening minutes of a game.

"My preferred positions are probably fullback or five-eighth but I'm just excited to be back in the starting side for a big game like this one."

A Newcastle product, Smith had never played hooker until the 2016 NRL All Stars match. And even then, his stint at dummy-half for the indigenous boys lasted no more than five minutes.

Yet last year, following injures to Pritchard and Cameron King, the youngster was called on to play more minutes in dummy-half. Although never as a starter, until now.

The design on Parramatta’s jersey has been dubbed “Where The Eels Lie Down”.
The design on Parramatta’s jersey has been dubbed “Where The Eels Lie Down”.

As part of indigenous Round, the Eels will also be wearing a special commemorative jersey which, designed by Elle Binge Harrison, is entitled 'Where The Eels Lie Down'.

The artist's unique design incorporates the Parramatta river catchment system, with a Darug hunter also illustrated.

Smith said he was extremely proud to wear the jersey, and credited his father Edward and grandfather Bill for immersing him in Aboriginal culture.

"When I was young they would take me out to all these different campsites," he recalls. "I'd sit around listening while they all told stories.

"It's something I'm wanting to do more of. Especially now, as a father of two myself.

"I'm just excited to be part of such an important weekend for indigenous rugby league."



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