Ex-Wigan Warriors ace Morgan Smithies explains ‘dream’ NRL move: ‘I felt like I’d won everything back home’

Ben Olawumi
Morgan Smithies Canberra Raiders NRL

Morgan Smithies will be a Canberra Raiders player in 2024 - Alamy

Morgan Smithies says ‘it’s been a dream’ of his to play in the NRL for a long time, explaining that he felt the time was right to move on from Wigan Warriors and Super League having ‘won everything’.

The 23-year-old saw his transfer to Canberra Raiders confirmed at the end of October, penning a three-year deal which saw Wigan receive a ‘significant fee’ for his services.

Smithies bowed out of the DW Stadium as a Super League champion, starting in the Warriors‘ Grand Final triumph over Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford.

They also lifted the League Leaders’ Shield a few weeks prior, and in Peet’s first season in charge had won the Challenge Cup with victory against Huddersfield Giants at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Ex-Wigan Warriors ace Morgan Smithies explains ‘dream’ NRL move: ‘I felt like I’d won everything back home’

Having settled into life Down Under, Smithies spoke to the Australian press for the first time, and detailed the reasons behind his move to the Raiders.

The forward said: “Winning the Grand Final in the season just gone, I felt like I’d won everything really back home apart from the World Club Challenge.

“When this opportunity came, I felt like it was one I had to take with both hands because they don’t come around too often.

“It’s a big opportunity because it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NRL, and I’ve got an opportunity now to do it.

“Over the past few years, I’ve tried to develop my game a little bit more. I’ve tried to improve my ball handling skills, add a bit more rugby into my game, and I felt like I did that.

“I’ll just be trying to progress from there really. Training has been a good taster to know what it’s all about. I’ve been working pretty hard to get my fitness right and I know the boys have been ripping in as well.”

Smithies ready to ‘pick the brains’ of Canberra stars including England Elliott Whitehead

One of Smithies’ new team-mates and fellow forward pack member is Elliott Whitehead, who recently announced his retirement from international rugby league after 31 appearances between England and Great Britain combined.

The 34-year-old has been in the NRL with Canberra since 2016, fast approaching 200 appearances Down Under. Next year will be his last before hanging up his boots altogether, so it’s no surprise that Smithies wants to glean as much as possible from him in the time they have as colleagues.

Smithies continued: “He’s massive, a big player at this club and a massive leader. I feel like I can learn a lot off him and obviously with it being his last year, I’ll need to pick his brains a little bit more.

“What he does after, I’m not too sure, but as a player he’s been massive. He was someone I looked up to growing up. You obviously look out for the English boys when you’re a kid watching the NRL, and he was obviously one of them.

“I’m only 23, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I know that. I’m still trying to learn each day coming in here, and when you’ve got players like this around you, it makes it a lot easier. It’s up to me to pick their brains and learn day in, day out.”

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