Flying under the radar and on the recovery path, exciting Roosters centre Billy Smith has been striving both on and off the training field in a bid to return to the NRL side in a matter of weeks.
The 21-year-old has been on the sidelines recovering from a shoulder reconstruction in pre-season, with his desire to get back onto the pitch burning brighter than ever as he inches ever closer to being named in Trent Robinson's 21-man squad.
"I'm about six weeks down the track now and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Smith explained.
"It's going really well. I was in a sling for a couple of weeks and rested up, but now I'm back on the training field with the squad.
"I'll tell you what - it makes you feel a lot better about yourself running around with them, especially for your headspace. Just being back out there and getting the footy back in your hands has been great.
I've had a tough couple of years with injuries but it does put things into perspective. While I'm confident of having a long career, you have to appreciate and acknowledge that you can't have Rugby League as a career forever.Billy Smith Roosters Centre
"There's still a bit of work to do but I'm definitely getting there and getting closer to return."
With time on his side and still in the infancy of his career, it hasn't taken long for Smith to gain the foresight and maturity to look beyond to both further his education and keep him occupied outside of a rigorous NRL schedule.
"It's hard to get much done when you're in a sling. The injury happened and I was on the operating table the next week," he said.
"It all kind of happened really fast, then you're kind of immobile for a little while, but I've been doing things off the field which has helped me get away from footy.
"I've started studying a Diploma of Business, and though it sounds silly, it really does take your mind off your body and footy.
"I'm excited to get into it, it's something new and I'll get a bit of work experience and get involved in some networking as well.
"I've had a tough couple of years with injuries but it does put things into perspective. While I'm confident of having a long career, you have to appreciate and acknowledge that you can't have Rugby League as a career forever.
"It's good to get your foot into different doors and experience things with different people."
With a host of chopping and changing of the Easts lineup in the first month of the 2021 season, Smith cited the morale and confidence in the squad to innovate and adapt as his return to the side edges closer by the week.
Behind The Scenes | Billy Smith Debut
"I'm aiming for a return for Round 12," Smith confirmed.
"We're heading into Round 5 now so there isn't too long to go, it's definitely a motivating factor. I'm putting my hand up for my teammates and for the Club, I'm working my backside off, and now it's up to my body to respond.
"It's tough to see those key guys go down, but we're a Club based on the next-man-up mentality. We trust everyone in the squad to do a job so I have no doubt whoever needs to do the job can do the job. The morale is still there and it gives me the motivation to go ahead and return.
"I love training with the likes of Teddy (James Tedesco), the Morris boys, Joey Manu and Toops (Daniel Tupou) - they're world-class players. They only make you better and they're great guys as well.
"I get goosebumps every time I see the boys run out onto the SCG and hopefully I'll be alongside them in the not-too-distant future."
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