Wigan Warriors’ Harry Smith reveals post-match chat with Nathan Cleary after shirt swap: ‘Credit to him’

Drew Darbyshire
Harry Smith Wigan Warriors Nathan Cleary Penrith Panthers Alamy

Wigan star Harry Smith (left) and Penrith ace Nathan Cleary (right)

Wigan’s number seven Harry Smith swapped shirts with his Penrith counterpart Nathan Cleary after a pulsating World Club Challenge at a sold-out DW Stadium.

It was the Warriors who were crowned champions of the world after an intense and bruising encounter, with Matt Peet’s side running out as 16-12 winners over Ivan Cleary’s outfit on home soil.

The key battle of the halves in Smith and Cleary was an undoubted talking point before the game, and they certainly played their part in a fantastic occasion, with Smith’s impressive kicking and Cleary’s exceptional running game on show.

Smith and Cleary, who are international half-backs for England and Australia respectively, swapped jerseys after the full-time hooter sounded as a show of respect to each other, captured by the Sky Sports cameras as they chatted for a few minutes.

“It was just a general chat about the game and the season ahead, asking me about what I thought of the game,” a humble Smith told Love Rugby League in the tunnel area at the DW Stadium after the game.

“He was a really nice bloke and credit to him to be like that after a defeat when they thought they could have won it at the end, so credit to him and their whole team, they played the right way and it was tough – it was brilliant.”

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Wigan Warriors star Harry Smith ‘buzzing’ after World Club Challenge triumph

Conducting interviews barely an hour after lifting the World Club Challenge, Smith was lost for words about the magnitude of the victory.

It is the fifth time that Wigan have won the World Club Challenge, and the first time they’ve won it since their triumph over Cronulla Sharks in 2017.

“I can’t really put it into words right now but I’m just buzzing for the team and everyone involved at the club who has put in the work to get to this point,” Smith said. “I’m buzzing but it’s not fully sunk in yet.

“It was tough. We knew we’d have to play for 80 minutes and that they’d be putting us under relentless pressure for the whole game which they did. We just had to hang in there and take points when we could, it was just a proper grind and it was brilliant to be part of.

“It was brilliant, it’s why I play the game, to play in the biggest games and play against the best players so we all just took a forward step and backed ourselves – that’s what we wanted to do and I feel like we did that.”

There was a strong crowd of 24,091 inside the DW Stadium for the showpiece event, with Heather Small and Russell Watson headlining the pre-match entertainment.

“It is probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve been in at the DW since I signed,” Smith added. “If we can get that more and more week in, week out, that would be brilliant for us this season.”

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