Big Summer Ahead For Smith

Friday 6 June 2014

Switching codes for the second time earlier this year, former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats flyer Lee Smith is on his first summer break in over 13 years.

And the two times Grand Final, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge winner believes the time off will set him in good stead for the forthcoming campaign.

“I’m getting my first summer holiday for something like 13, 14 years which is brilliant,” said Smith.

“We’re back in pre-season next week and then I’ve got two and a half months before the Premiership season starts where that is my real learning curve.

“That’s when in September I want to be hitting the ground running, starting in the team and nailing down a position where I’m going to play and playing week in, week out,” added Smith.

After a stint with London Wasps in 2009 it would have been easy for Smith to turn his back on the 15-man game, but when Dean Richards came calling for his services a move to Tyneside was a no-brainer according to the Morley-born back.

He said: “If I got into my 40s and 50s looking back on my career without having a proper go at it I'd have been disappointed with myself.

“Obviously I had a go with Wasps and it didn't work out, but I'm very fortunate that Newcastle came in and wanted to sign me.”

Rugby league has been a useful talent pool for union clubs since the advent of professionalism in the late 1990s reversed a trend of players moving the other way for financial and sporting rewards.

“I had a great time in rugby league, but there’s only a certain type of player that can move codes,” said Smith.

“They’re two totally different games. All the rucking and mauling compared to the play-the-ball is completely different.

“Moves are similar, but it’s different game plans. The fitness has to be different. You need to be intense for one or two minutes in union and then you get a break, while league is a bit more continuous. That’s something else I'm going to have to work on during the off season.”

While Smith’s rugby league career brought him Super League Grand Final winners’ medals, and a Harry Sunderland Trophy for man-of-the-match in the 2008 final, the move to Newcastle has seen him experience the opposite end of the scale.

Falcons feared potential relegation from the top flight until the penultimate game of the current campaign and have a big summer ahead to ensure improvement is made next season.

“I think the culture has to be player-driven, the coaches can only give you so much,” said Smith.

“Going back, Leeds had lots of very good professionals. I got brought up by people like Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow - they were very good pros and it filtered down into the academy.

“That’s how you were brought up, if you stepped out of line then you got knocked back into line. That's somewhere where maybe at the Falcons we can tighten up a bit in the off-season.

“We need to set our standards ourselves, so when we get beat we can ask ourselves questions why and take a bit of responsibility off the coaches.”

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