Wigan Warriors Grand Final winner Morgan Smithies has become the latest Englishman to make the big move Down Under – and we’ve highlighted why he’ll succeed in the NRL.
The England international last week put pen to paper on a three-year deal with Canberra Raiders from 2024, joining the NRL side from Super League champions Wigan Warriors.
Wigan say they received a ‘significant transfer fee’ for Smithies, who made more than 100 appearances for Super League giants despite still only being 22 years of age.
We’ve highlighted seven reasons why Smithies will be a success in the NRL…
A winning mentality
Smithies is a winner. He knows what it takes to win and how to win.
The Wigan academy product won a Super League Grand Final, two League Leaders’ Shields and a Challenge Cup in his five years with the Warriors first team.
He’s even won Academy Grand Finals with Wigan and was part of the England Academy side that conquered the Australian Schoolboys.
One of his best and biggest attributes is his defensive work. He prides his game on his defence.
Smithies burst onto the Super League scene at an early age. In his breakthrough year with the first team in 2019 the then 18-year-old made 72 tackles in 62 minutes in a play-off win over Salford.
Smithies beat a 21-year-old Super League record set by London Broncos’ Steele Retchless.
Not much gets past Smithies in defence.
The Halifax-born forward has progressed all the way through the England ranks, from Youth level, to the Academy, then onto the Knights and the full senior side.
Smithies made his international debut for his country earlier this season, helping Shaun Wane’s side thrash France 64-0 in Warrington.
He was brought in to Wane’s squad ahead of their final test against Tonga last week as cover but didn’t feature in the third win over Kristian Woolf’s side.
You feel Smithies has a long international career ahead of him.
Ball playing ability
Whilst his standout trait is his defensive work, Smithies has integrated more ball-playing into his game over the last 12 or 18 months.
The Yorkshireman has developed a good pass on him and has acted as extra support for Wigan’s half-backs this season, sometimes playing as a first or second receiver to lay on a passing move.
Incredible work rate
When you check the stats after the game, Smithies will more often than not be in the top five players for metres, carries and tackles made.
Not many players are able to make more than 45 tackles in a game and play the full 80.
In his final game for Wigan, Smithies made 55 tackles and 19 carries in 80 minutes to help the Warriors beat Catalans Dragons 10-2 in the Grand Final and lift the Super League trophy at Old Trafford.
Aggression to match the NRL’s elite
Smithies also has the aggression to match it with the best forwards in the world in the NRL.
He picked up a couple of suspensions in his early days in the first team, but has seemingly matured over the last couple of seasons and has found the right balance between playing on the edge and crossing the line.
Smithies has now got the right level of aggression which helps him be the ultimate competitor.
‘The Aussies will love him’
Saving the best til last and all that – the Aussies will LOVE him.
Smithies’ overall game suits the NRL, and you can see him being there for a lengthy period like his new Canberra team-mate Elliott Whitehead.
England coach Shaun Wane believes the Aussies will ‘love’ Smithies for his ‘all action’ style of play – but says the loose forward still has areas of his game in which he needs to improve.
Wane said: “He’s good. His ball carrying has improved, which it needed to, but he’s all action and he’s similar to Morgan Knowles.
“He’s not quite as big, but he carries the ball better now, which is something he had to get better at. I like him.
“He’ll need to change a few things and improve on certain areas to make a strong mark over there, because it’s a different competition, but the Aussies will love him – he’s all action.
“He defends and defends, and he’s a great kid, but that’s a different ball game over there, so he needs to be a lot better.”