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Smith proud to lead Eels as Ferguson admits future uncertain

From Eels ball boy to captain within a week is a massive rise, but Will Smith has taken it in his stride as he prepares to lead an undermanned Parramatta team against Penrith in a match that could be his last alongside Blake Ferguson.

Smith, who has made 72 NRL appearances since debuting for the Panthers in 2014, has never captained a team at any level but Eels coach Brad Arthur has given him responsibility for steering the side around after naming the utility at five-eighth for Friday night's derby clash at Cbus Super Stadium.

After upsetting Melbourne last weekend to stop the Storm from a record 20th consecutive win, the Eels have rested nine members of the starting line-up, with Ferguson, fellow winger Haze Dunster and hooker Joey Lussick the only players selected in the same jerseys for the Penrith clash.

For Ferguson, who starred against the Storm in just his second appearance in 10 weeks, every game is one closer to the end of his three-year stint at Parramatta and the former representative star admitted he didn't know what the future held for him.

However, the 31-year-old also insisted he wasn't concerned.

"This has never happened. This is now, so I'm just living in the present, just cruising," Ferguson said.

"You're one loss away from getting pushed out of the game and we don't want that to happen and I don't want a distraction on the playing group.

Smith talks Eels' captaincy honour

"At the end of the day I am just enjoying playing football and whatever is left of it I am going to rinse it out of me."

Ferguson said he was looking forward to playing under Smith, who he predicted would lead by his actions and won't change his playing style because of the captaincy.

"Will wears his heart on his sleeve, he is a tough bugger, he rips in and will turn up for you when times are tough," Ferguson said.

"He just wants to go out there and do the job for the team. He probably won't make it about himself. We are going to go out there as a group and we all need to work hard and try to get the two points against these guys."

Smith has known since before the Storm match that he would be captain against Penrith after Arthur told him his plan to rest players, including skipper Clint Gutherson, halfback Mitchell Moses and five-eighth Dylan Brown.

He didn't play against Melbourne and was on ball boy duties.

"Brad just said I am going to rest you this week and next week when you play you are going to be captain," Smith said.

"I was buzzing. I went back up to my room and told my old man and my family. They loved it. Dad didn't cry but my grandfather was one of the first people I told and he lost it. He was super excited and happy for me.

"It is a proud moment to be putting this jersey on this weekend and being the captain considering the captains who have been at this club before.

"I am playing against my old club so you always want to beat them but I don't really care about them, I am more worried about us.

"It would be huge knowing we can knock the top two teams off. We know within ourselves that we can do that sort of thing."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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