Panthers utility Will Smith has credited the club's NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan for helping him develop into an NRL player.
Currently in the team at fullback as an injury replacement for Matt Moylan (ankle) and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (lung), Smith said Brennan – who enticed the Wests Newcastle junior from the Knights at the beginning of 2014 – is the reason behind his strong utility value with the 23-year-old also an efficient suitor in the centres and halves.
Brennan has beened labelled the best coach not yet coaching in the NRL by Panthers general manager Phil Gould, and Smith is just one example of his mentor's hard work as coach of Penrith's second tier side and formerly Holden Cup team.
"Garth's helped me play fullback, centre and in the halves and that's definitely helped me in terms of all the injuries we have in the NRL team now because it's given me a chance to play," Smith told NRL.com.
"The utility stuff helps me a lot, not many people like it because they like to play the one position, but I do definitely because it helps me adapt when injuries come. He's helped me a lot since the beginning of my career really.
"He brought me into my first rep team, the Harold Matthews' team in Newcastle, and I've been with him pretty much ever since. I can talk to him about anything. He helps me out with any part of my game especially if I'm playing three positions.
"He just doesn't look after you as a player either. Rather he makes sure you're a good person as well off the field. He's always worried about his players, always checking on us to see if we're alright just to make sure we're good off the field to play well on it."
Benefiting Smith too is his NRL experience in the halves last season during a similar injury crisis where he played the final eight games of the season alongside Jamie Soward in the club's run to the preliminary finals.
"I'm a lot more confident now especially because I know how Soward plays and I believe I'm starting to build a pretty good relationship with Peter Wallace now as well, especially being able to run off the back of him so I think there are good times to come," Smith said.
"It helps a lot having them there. It makes my job a lot easier being able to run off the back of them because I'm jumping out of my skin. I want to play each day so I can't wait for the next game.
"It's really hard to keep grounded at training, but you just have to go through the motions at training and put your head down to make sure you've done everything right before playing."
Off-contract at season's end, Smith' preference is to remain at the club.
"I'm content," he said. "I'm happy with where I'm at currently and I'm pretty happy with my footy too. You're always looking to find a permanent position but at the moment my preference is to stay."