Eels utility stinging after time on sidelines
Parramatta utility Will Smith says he is desperate to back up last week's NRL recall with more game time after sitting on the sidelines with no footy for a fortnight.
Called up at fullback for Bevan French (hamstring) last week, the former Panther and Knight played just his third full game of the year after two games in the halves in Rounds 9-10.
It came on the back of a fortnight cooling his heels on the sidelines after not being used by either the main squad or feeder team Wentworthville; in Round 21 he was named as a bench utility as he had been the previous two games but dropped off the bench late when coach Brad Arthur elected to promote hooker Cam King to an 80-minute role in favour of four big men on the bench.
In Round 22 Smith was named in the reserves but didn't play NRL and with Wentworthville on the bye there was no chance for Smith to play in any grade.
"It was tough, I sat out for the last two weeks with no footy but I still trained hard even though I wasn't playing," Smith told NRL.com.
"It was just a different approach going into those two games for the team… We might have had some niggling injuries so [Arthur] didn't want to risk any more."
Smith did his best in his team's last-start 29-10 loss to the Knights, scoring one of Parramatta's two tries. He was sin-binned attempting some scramble defence while covering for a Kirisome Auva'a dropped bomb and made 79 metres in a game where few Eels backs shone.
"Last week, obviously Bevvy was out and BA (Brad Arthur) asked me to play fullback so I loved the opportunity," Smith said.
"I love playing fullback but if [Arthur] wants me to play anywhere else for the team I'm happy to do it.
"Ever since I was at Penrith and started playing fullback there it became my favourite position."
French has been named to return at the back this week with Smith again in the reserves; he will have to wait until later in the week to find out if French has recovered sufficiently and whether he will get a chance either at fullback, on the bench or in the Intrust Super Premiership where he has been named at fullback.
"You definitely want to be playing. I just took [the previous two weeks] as if I was sitting out then I was sitting out for a good reason," Smith said.
"Yeah if Bevvy's back hopefully I push for my spot back in the bench as that utility."
For his part, King says he has enjoyed the step up to 80 minutes but after a season-high 57 tackles against the Knights is hoping his team has a more even share of the ball against the Titans.
"It is [a big workload] but unfortunately we didn't have the ball [against Newcastle] so you end up making a lot of tackles when you're not completing and don't have the ball," King said.
"I'll continue to do my job there but I'd rather we have the ball more than be making more tackles!"
After a major slip up in the team's quest for a top four finish last week, King denied any complacency among the players but admitted the team needed to be better at managing the games they were expected to win if they were going to press for a top four finish.
"That's something we've got to embrace, being favourites, but we have to turn up and play like favourites which we didn't do on the weekend so we need to turn that around if we want to give the competition a shake," he said.