Eels utility ready to grab chance at hooker

Eels utility ready to grab chance at hooker

Parramatta utility Will Smith has arguably been playing the best footy of his career of late in the less familiar bench hooker role and following a wave of injuries afflicting the team's No.9 stocks says he is ready to grab whatever chance comes his way.

‌With Isaac De Gois (concussion) yet to feature this year and a chance of being forced into retirement and Kaysa Pritchard (knee) now out for the season, the former Panther looms as a key man for coach Brad Arthur given the slim chances of recruiting another rake before this week's June 30 cut-off.

Former Dragons and Cowboys hooker Cam King has been in and out of reserve grade with a series of injuries but is also a chance of helping fill the void while Wentworthville skipper Cody Nelson has been wearing No.9 of late and has been solid in three top-grade games over the previous two seasons at the club.

"I'm starting to enjoy that role of coming off the bench and playing wherever they need me," Smith said.

"Mostly I've been coming on as hooker. Get on there and hopefully start terrorising the ruck a bit."

Smith's footy has mostly been played at fullback or in the halves and he said he is still adapting to the different fitness requirements of defending in the middle for long periods but has done well twice this year playing big minutes following early-game injuries to Pritchard.

"Fullback you do a lot of running, but you're not in the line as much either. You're making the tackle or you might be the third man out so you've got to get back quick so you can be back in the line again," he said.

The longer he stays in one position and the more he adapts to it the more he starts to enjoy it and that is now happening with the No.9 duties, he said.

"I think in 2015 I played in the [Indigenous] All Stars as hooker," he said.

"At the start of the year when I first came back from my injury it was fullback and halves. And then Kaysa Pritchard at the start of the year was struggling to get out the 80 minutes so I put my hand up to be the person that could come off the bench and support him.

"Definitely I would love to put my hand up and make that position my own."

Smith, who played his footy at the Western Suburbs Rosellas in the Newcastle region, was signed from Penrith late last year shortly after suffering an ACL injury requiring a reconstruction.

It was a show of faith from Arthur to bring him in anyway and he was originally brought over to provide depth in the halves to a club that had parted ways with Kieran Foran and at that time was yet to sign Mitch Moses or establish if fullback Clint Gutherson could potentially succeed long-term at five-eighth.

"I spoke to Parra a couple of days before I did my knee. Parramatta were playing Penrith that day, straight after our game," Smith recalled.

At first he didn't realise the injury – suffered while playing reserve grade – was bad enough to put him out long term and was in talks with the Eels at that time.

"I talked to a couple of other clubs but the main thing that kept me wanting to come to Parra was because they had interest in me before I was injured. So it was good to know they wanted me in the first place," he said.

"It was good of them to do that for me. Terrific staff here, the trainers and physios did everything they could to get me back on the field.

"It makes you more comfortable knowing what you're doing each week. If you're in and out each week your form can go up and down."