New Raider Smithies extends Canberra’s British empire

George Clarke |

Morgan Smithies made a bright start to NRL life in Canberra’s opening-round with over Newcastle.
Morgan Smithies made a bright start to NRL life in Canberra’s opening-round with over Newcastle.

Canberra’s latest English import concedes he’s a sucker for punishment as he sets his sights on a reunion with former teammate John Bateman.

Morgan Smithies made an impressive NRL debut at lock in the Raiders’ 28-12 defeat of Newcastle last Thursday, racking up 46 tackles in a 69-minute cameo.

The Yorkshireman arrived in Canberra with very little fanfare over the off-season, but showed against the Knights why head coach Ricky Stuart was so quick to throw him into the starting pack.

Mixing brawn and brains, Smithies took on all-comers and is relishing the challenge of picking up where he left off in Saturday’s home game against Wests Tigers.

“I loved every second of my debut,” Smithies told AAP.

“Coming over here was a bit of a risk, but I knew if I put the work in I could be in contention to get picked in that 17. 

“The hard work has paid off.

“When it goes set for set and you grind all game – that’s when I love it.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere near my best, I’ll be watching the game back and I’ll see what I need to work on and improve.

“But I felt like that game was a good start … most of us like that (taking pain), you grow up playing rugby league because you love that side of it.”

Smithies knows the affinity the Raiders have for their Englishmen, having admired from afar how Bateman energised the Green Machine on their way to the 2019 grand final and 2020’s preliminary final.

John Bateman of Wests Tigers (centre).
Smithies is looking forward to taking on his Raiders predecessor, Wests Tigers John Bateman (c). (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The pair played alongside each other at Wigan before Bateman’s return to the NRL with the Tigers in 2023, and Smithies is relishing the chance to test himself against his long-time idol.

“It’ll be good to go against ‘Batty’, I’ve played with him and then he came back over here,” Smithies said. 

“It’ll be pretty special because I looked up to him for a long time. 

“Before he came over here and did what he did, he was someone I admired. He had my respect without me even meeting him. 

“But when he moved to the NRL he killed it and I’m looking forward to the chance of going against him.”