Wigan Warriors half-back Harry Smith has spoken of his desire to become a regular starting player in Adrian Lam’s star-studded side.
With Thomas Leuluai rested, the 21-year-old was given an opportunity to impress during Friday’s Challenge Cup third-round victory at York City Knights.
The Academy product from Widnes was on the scoresheet during the first half and is hoping he has done enough to convince Lam he deserves to stay there.
Smith, who played for Wigan in three successive Academy Grand Final victories, told Rugby League Live: “York in the Challenge Cup was a really good game to be a part of.
“They brought their best game and challenged us well, which will help us in the long run.
“Wigan’s academy is probably the best in England, if not in the world of rugby league.
“I feel it has really helped me to develop my game and set me in good stead for my career.
“Hopefully I can keep building and getting better every week, developing on and off the field.
“Last season I got a lot of bench spots and did my job from there.
“Hopefully I can earn more starts and show what I can do for the full eighty minutes. That’s my goal this year.”
With head coach Lam a stellar half-back for Wigan in his playing days, and Leuluai and 2019 Man of Steel Jackson Hastings above him in the pecking order, Smith is well placed to master the playmaking arts.
“When you look at the position I’m in with Adrian a former half-back, Jackson a Man of Steel and Tommy who has done it all, I’m in a really good position to learn,” he added.
“That’s what I want to keep doing and just learning, developing and striving really.
“That’s why Wigan are probably one of the best teams – because of all the competition for places.
“Training is always intense and we’re all fighting for places.
“When you do get your chance, we’re always talking about how you’ve got to earn it and then keep it by performing.
“Hopefully I’ve done that and can keep doing it for the rest of the season.”
In 2019, the scrum half joined Swinton Lions on loan in the Championship, but he is determined to fight for his place at Wigan this season.
“I’ve not really spoken to Adrian about the whole year but I definitely want to be at Wigan all season,” said Smith.
“Like I say, if I keep performing then hopefully I can hold my spot.
“I managed to play quite a few games last season, mainly off the bench, and just want to do the same if not more this year.
“I’d like to get a few more starts but I just need to keep playing well.”
Smith captained England’s Academy side to a 2-0 series win against Australia in December 2018.
The following season, he made his debut for Wigan and also represented England Knights against Jamaica at Headingley.
He dreams of representing the senior side, adding: “That’s definitely the goal and I think every lad who plays rugby has a desire to represent England at senior level. Hopefully that can happen in the future.”
On Friday against York, Smith’s fellow academy products, left winger Umyla Hanley and left centre Samuel Halsall, both scored their first senior tries for Wigan.
Smith believes the 19-year-olds will continue to shine, saying: “Coming through the academy with Sam and Umyla, I knew they had outstanding potential.
“They did it at academy level and it’s just good to see them doing it at first-team level.
“If they keep working hard them I’m sure they have a good future at Wigan and in the game itself.
“When you look at how hard they have both worked in pre-season, to get themselves in the team, it was really good to see them both score.”
Wigan will face Hull FC in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, a trophy they have won a record 19 times but not lifted since beating the Black and Whites in 2013.
Smith, who hailed the early-season form of Zak Hardaker, said: “We spoke in the build-up about how we have not won the Challenge Cup for a while, so it’s something we really want to do and create some new history.
“It’s really good to have Zak in the team. He’s looking really sharp, fit and faster than anyone else, so it’s just great to have his knowledge and experience.
“It helps everyone in the team, including myself.
“It’s the same with someone like Jackson, but any player with that kind of experience can only help a young lad like me.”