Adrian Lam will welcome back several reinforcements for Wigan Warriors’ trip to Hull KR this weekend – but says Morgan Smithies has done enough to stay in the mix.
He describes the 18-year-old forward as “one of the shining lights” of a rocky first half to the season.
Smithies has figured in eight Super League games, including their most recent, the 26-14 loss to Warrington in the Magic Weekend.
And while he will welcome back up to four players for Sunday’s trip to Hull KR – Liam Farrell, Thomas Leuluai, Sam Powell and Liam Marshall – he hinted Smithies had done enough to remain in the side.
“He’ll be in the picture, I just like everything about him,” said Lam. “There’ll be pressure on everyone, especially with Faz giving us some stability, but Morgan will be in there. He’s fitted into our system well, he’s a good kid, his actions are first-class.”
Smithies made a surprise debut in a 42-0 thrashing of Catalans at the end of March.
Lam did give him a spell out of the side but made it clear he was only putting him on ice because of his age and inexperience.
“He’s only 18 but I’ve told him he should feel strong because nobody has out-muscled him,” said Lam. “He’s got a great engine and he’s not had a full pre-season yet, let alone two, or five.
I don’t want to put pressure on him but I do think he’s got a massive future in the game.”
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan recently hinted they had extended the contract of the England academy international. Smithies can play in the back-row but feels more comfortable in the middle - and Lam says he has the perfect mentor, Sean O’Loughlin, to help accelerate his development.
“I know he feels better in the middle, he’s got the ability to ball-play and I spoken to him and said, ‘Sponge off Lockers as much as you can’.”