With some world class players ahead of him, young Panthers forward Lindsay Smith is happy to learn from some of the game’s best while he awaits his opportunity.
Last Saturday night against the Sea Eagles, the 23-year-old local junior played his second consecutive NRL game of the season – bringing his total tally in the top grade to six matches since making his debut in 2021.
While Smith would love to play regular first grade on a weekly basis, he knows he just has to train hard and stay ready for whenever his coach taps him on the shoulder.
“I just have to keep training at the intensity they expect here and always be ready,” Smith told the Weekender.
“I’ve only played a handful of games the last couple of years, but everyone’s journey in the NRL is different and I have to understand that.
“I just have to take it week by week and trust the coaching staff that we have here and take the opportunities where I can.”
A St Marys junior, Smith first entered the Panthers Development Pathways Program at the age of 14 via the club’s Junior Elite Training Scheme.
A former Australian Schoolboys representative, Smith overcome several injury setbacks throughout his junior career, including back-to-back shoulder reconstructions.
In Round 13 2021, Smith made his NRL debut against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval before not seeing another game in the top grade until Round 3 last year.
During his time away from the NRL, Smith had been busy plying his trade in the NSW Cup, winning a Premiership and National Championship under coach Peter Wallace last season.
Smith said whenever he gets an opportunity to play alongside his heroes in first grade, he has to pinch himself.
“It’s pretty special playing around some of those boys who have won the last two comps and all the achievements the last couple of years with Origin and all that,” he said.
“It’s special to go out there and be around them and the good thing is, you always feel safe out there with them and just do your job.”
While Smith would love to play more games in the NRL, he knows he has to wait for his opportunity with the likes of internationals James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Spencer Leniu and Scott Sorensen ahead of him.
In the meantime, the man they call ‘Larry’ is more than happy to use Penrith’s powerful pack of stars as a source to improve his own game.
“I try and be a sponge at all times,” Smith, who is contracted until the end of the 2024 season, admitted.
“The last couple of years I’ve been getting to learn from them week in, week out, and ask them questions.
“I plan to continue to do that and enjoy the experience whilst I can out on the field and just take it week by week.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.