Smith ready to answer finals SOS for Eels

Will Smith has come from the NRL wilderness to loom as a possible key finals figure for Parramatta.
Will Smith has come from the NRL wilderness to loom as a possible key finals figure for Parramatta.

Will Smith spent three months knocking on Brad Arthur's door, wondering when his chance would come.

He was desperate to know if he'd get on the field at all this year at Parramatta, or even get the chance to press his claims to stay in the NRL with a new contract.

Smith, like so many other fringe players, has had a nightmare of a year.

Unable to play a game in any form since March, he's trained all the while hoping for his opportunity.

He got his chance off the bench when Dylan Brown went down, before finally getting 80 minutes and scoring the match-winning try against Wests Tigers last week.

On Saturday, his next opportunity will come, named on Parramatta's bench to face Melbourne in the qualifying final.

He could well start at five-eighth again too, if Brown fails to return from an ankle injury ahead of time against the Storm.

"It's been tough, but all I could control was the way I train and get my body ready to play if I was called upon," Smith said.

"Playing a bit of minutes against Penrith a couple of weeks ago and some minutes last game helps me.

"I've been out since March and whenever we played our last game.

"I think I was annoying the coach a bit, questioning him when do I get a crack."

Smith is no stranger to playing big roles in the finals.

He's played just 56 NRL games in seven seasons, but started at five-eighth in Penrith's run to the preliminary final in 2014, and at fullback for the Eels in 2017.

His year has also been made even more difficult by his contract situation.

The 28-year-old falls into the same category as more than 100 other players whose futures are in limbo, as the NRL and players' union try to settle of a salary cap figure and roster sizes for next year.

Many, like Smith, have also had next to no chance to impress without reserve grade in 2020 - leaving them out of sight and in some cases out of mind.

"It (my future) is up in the air," Smith said.

"I would love to stay, I love this club. But at the same time I have a family to look after as well.

"I would love to stay in the NRL first (and foremost)."

Australian Associated Press