Morgan Smithies opens up on NRL move and admits he became ‘obsessed’ with leaving Wigan on winning terms
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Smithies, 22, made more than 100 appearances in cherry and white after making his debut in 2019 and enjoyed his final game with a Super League Grand Final triumph following a 10-2 win over Catalans Dragons.
The loose forward was under contract at the DW Stadium through until 2025, with Wigan receiving a ‘significant’ fee for the academy product after he penned a three-year deal with the Australian capital outfit.
And having agreed the move during the season, England international Smithies admitted to ‘tough’ conversations with the Warriors - and he knew he had to help lead the side to Old Trafford glory in his final season.
“I’ve obviously wanted to win the Grand Final for years, but knowing I was leaving, I got obsessed with wanting to win that,” Smithies said.
“It worked out pretty well. Nobody really knew about me leaving, my team-mates didn’t even know.
“There were rumours, but I didn’t tell them officially until after the Grand Final. But it was an extra factor to work even harder. I think everyone knew I was leaving anyway, so I didn’t have to say too much.”
He continued: “There were some tough conversations, telling the club that I wanted to leave to pursue this opportunity.
“I wanted to leave on good terms. If we didn’t win the Grand Final, I feel like it would have put a damper on me leaving.
“To go on and win that, it meant the world to me. I felt like I owed it to all the coaches and players and obviously the fans.”
Smithies capped off a remarkable period with a late call-up into Shaun Wane’s England squad ahead of the final test against Tonga to help cover injuries, and relished the opportunity to work with future club team-mate Elliott Whitehead.
The veteran back-rower, 34, made his final international appearance in the 26-4 win at Headingley Stadium, with Smithies revealing he spoke with both Whitehead and John Bateman in the camp ahead of his move down under.
“I only got called in last Tuesday, I was in Paphos for Brad Singleton’s wedding,” Smithies said.
“I wasn’t expecting a phone call, but when I got it, I was buzzing.
“I expected not to play. Just to be a part of the squad, it’s been some week and some experience.
“To train with new players, you pick up little things from them. It’s been a good experience.
“I spoke to Elliott briefly, he gave me some little pointers about Canberra. We didn’t speak too much about it, it was just about enjoying the week and getting to know him.
“But I also spoke with John Bateman as well. He was good at giving me advice.
“He killed it over there and was named Dally M back-rower of the year. His first season over there was outstanding. If I could do half of what he did, I’d be pretty happy in that first year.”