To conclude his third week of pre-season training, Billy Smith sat down for a Q&A to discuss a number of topics.
He discussed a tough pre-season, his new attitude towards training, the injury that kept him out for 10 months and his long awaited NRL debut.
Enjoy the full chat below!
Alright Bill, officially wrapped on your third week of pre-season, how’s it been?
Tough as always, but it’s enjoyable.
Last season I didn’t get to enjoy a pre-season cause I was in rehab with my knee.
It’s good to dust off the cobwebs from the off-season, put your head down and bum up and hook into a bit of work before the Chrissy break.
How does it feel after missing a pre-season to be one of the guys first back and probably with a bit more experience than some of these other guys?
It’s a different feeling this year.
My first pre-season I was learning the tricks of the trade and following the lead of the senior guys.
This time around I feel like I have a wiser head on my shoulders, which is kind of cool.
It’s a bit tougher because you want to lead from the front a bit, and that’s in all aspects from technical to mental.
With the conditioning work, having to stand tall when you feel like caving in a bit.
So that’s cool, but it doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure.
The feedback that we keep hearing is that this is the best time of the year to be putting in the hard work for the season, is that true?
The older guys haven’t come back yet and they’ve been doing this for years, so it sort of comes as second nature to those guys.
For us younger boys, we’re still learning the trade and trying to figure out how to make the technical stuff become habit.
Now’s a really good time to nail it into our heads, so that when those guys come back we’re up to par and know what we’re doing.
Let’s talk about your road to recovery mate.
You’re having a great season for the Wyong Roos back in 2018, on the verge of an NRL call-up and everything’s looking good for you.
You go down with the injury, tell us about that recovery period and how you worked your way back to the field.
Yeah, it was pretty gut wrenching.
It happened so late in the season, last five minutes of a semi final and happened in a pretty gruesome way.
Me and Robbo spoke a few weeks before that about how we’re looking forward to another full pre-season under my belt, and that there was a World Club Challenge coming up and all that sort of stuff.
For me to hurt myself so close to the end of the year, it was pretty hard to take.
In saying that though, looking back at it mate, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
It gave me some time to focus on life outside of footy, and look at it in a different way than what I used to.
I spent a lot of time off the field, so I did a lot of video, listened to coaches a lot more.
That was cool, cause I’ve always been a visual learner that would be told what he needs to do and learn on the run.
I couldn’t do that with a busted knee, so it gave me time to adjust which was cool.
18 months on and I take those aspects into my training and work life now that I’m fit.
So fast forward midway through to 2019, you make your return for the North Sydney Bears and you score two tries in your return.
Is that just a hungry man that’s been ready to return?
Um, it was a bit of luck I think.
I didn’t have to do a whole lot for those tries (he said with a giggle).
So the recovery was almost ten months, and I like to think I trained really hard during that period.
The last four months, you’re doing everything bar playing.
So by the time I was ready to play, I felt like I was being held back by a leash, and I was just suddenly cut loose.
That was pretty cool, to get a couple of tries under my belt and the win, so it was a really good way to come back.
The boys really enjoyed it too.
How many games did you play before the debut?
It would have been four or five, but I was 18th man for NRL a couple of times too.
So when the NRL debut rolled around in Round 23, how did you find out that you were going to play?
So Latrell had the sore calf that week, but he was given every chance to play.
My understanding that week was that Trell had until Captain’s Run to prove his fitness, and if he wasn’t right to go then I’d be in.
I thought it was just a normal week of being 18th man, so I just prepared like it was any other week.
When Captain’s Run came around, I remember Trell came up to me and said “get ready to debut, brah.”
So I’m like, “Woah, maybe I’m a chance!”
So we got out on the field, I saw him out there on the paddock and he was galloping along like he was sweet!
Obviously I was happy for him and always want him to play, but I just knew this wasn’t going to be the week.
I remember I sat down with a few staff after training, not really knowing what was going to happen.
Robbo came walking up to me in what felt like slow motion and he didn’t say anything.
I looked at him and said, “Am I on!?”
He (Robinson) smiled and said, “what do you reckon?”
It was really special, everyone talks about that moment when they finally debut.
To be honest, it’s probably not the way I thought it was going to happen, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The boys were all super stoked for me, it was awesome.
I said it after the game, I felt comfortable out there and the boys had faith in my ability.
To go out there and do it was pretty cool.
Behind The Scenes | Billy Smith Debut
Talk us through the debut try mate.
Teddy makes the break, you’re cutting through the middle, what’s going through your mind?
It was early in the game and I was still trying to find my groove!
I’d made a few runs and a few tackles in the first fifteen minutes and was just trying to get into the game.
Kez (Keary) being Kez, he just jumps at any chance he can if there’s a short side play on, and he just took it.
I remember seeing Teddy sniper through the line, and Zac Lomax was on the wing covering pretty well.
I thought to myself, maybe if I turn on the inside here I’ll have a good chance to score and it ended up being pretty good.
Teddy gave me the no look pass on the inside and I just raced my way there.
The whole game was a bit of a blur, but one thing I remember well was being five metres away from the chook pen and thinking to myself, “Is this really happening?”
MusclePharm Moment | Round 23
So do you step into this pre-season knowing there’s a chance of getting a spot in the NRL side?
Yeah, that’s the goal.
I’d love to play consistent first grade next year.
I’m still learning the trade and my craft from the coaching staff and senior players, but I’m not training to play New South Wales Cup.
I want a spot, wherever that may be.
Just have to work hard, train well and impress.