MATTY Smith hailed their series triumph as “special” after a remarkable recall to the England team.
The halfback sat out the opening two Tests against the world’s No.1-ranked side but was drafted in - at the expense of Wigan team-mate George Williams - for Saturday’s decider at a capacity DW Stadium.
We’d not won anything for eight years, so it was up to us to win today and get that silverware - especially leading into the Four Nations next year and then the World Cup.Matty Smith
And Smith played a key role in guiding Steve McNamara’s men to a gutsy 20-14 win - and secure their first major series victory since shelving the Great Britain shirt eight years ago.
“It was great to get the win,” he said. “Everyone has put in so much effort over the last five weeks.
“I’d not played for a month, my last game was the Grand Final, so there was a little bit of nerves, but excitement as well.
“I was just looking forward to being part of something special. We’d not won anything for eight years, so it was up to us to win today and get that silverware - especially leading into the Four Nations next year and then the World Cup.
“We’ve come so close over the past couple of years, it was important for us to get over the line and get that Shield, and have something to build on.”
Smith was the incumbent No.7 in the Four Nations last year but had to bide him time until the weekend.
“It has been frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” said the 28-year-old.
“I thought I played alright last year so I didn’t really play my way out of the side.
“But George has come in and he’s deserved his place, he’s been fantastic for Wigan this year, so I had no objections to that.
“It’s been tough not playing, but our strength and conditioner, Marc Bitcon, and his staff... we’ve probably trained harder than the boys that have been playing.
“I just had to keep going. I got my chance and to get the win was massive for me.”
Wigan team-mates Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin also played. O’Loughlin sealed the win with a 71st minute try and was later named man of the series.
“He deserved to be player of the series, without doubt - he’s been head and shoulders,” said prop James Graham.
“In two out of the three games he’s come up trumps at the end. It was a magnificent play.”