FORMER Saint Matty Smith doesn’t care about the friendly status of tonight’s match.
The 2013 Lance Todd Trophy winner has not played since October’s Grand Final triumph over Warrington – after being surprisingly left out of the England World Cup squad – and is desperate to get back into action.
And for Smith, a former Blackbrook amateur and 2010 Grand Finalist for Saints, Langtree Park will be the perfect place to start his year – although he admits the atmosphere across the East Lancs Road hasn’t been as hostile as usual of late.
“On the pitch it’s all in good banter and they’ve not a lot to say to us at the minute with us doing the double last year,” said the new first-choice goalkicker.
“Hopefully we can keep them quiet again.”
Tonight serves as the first game for Smith to road test his goal-kicking practice since taking the mantle as first-choice kicker.
Being no stranger to kicking a ball (Smith was on Everton's books as a 15-year-old, and played alongside Wayne Rooney) he has stepped up to the tee on occasion in the past.
He stood in to kick goals for St Helens, striking 10 two-pointers in his time at Knowsley Road as well as scoring two goals for Celtic Crusaders in 16 appearances in 2009 and seven for Salford in his 76 appearances between 2010 and 2012.
The understated half has a reputation for his fearless running style but in his first full season with Wigan showed deft skills to strike seven goals as stand-in for Pat Richards, five drop-goals and four 40/20s in 2013.
"It’s fairly new to me actually," Smith said on taking the responsibility.
"I only started playing rugby late on but I did a bit of it at Salford and Saints.
"This will be the first time I’m No.1 goal kicker."
Other options in the kicking department should Smith need an understudy are the currently sidelined Josh Charnley and teenager Ryan Hampshire, who is included in the squad travelling to Langtree Park tonight.
Smith’s partnership with stand-off Blake Green is entering its second full season and will be viewed by critics very differently compared with 12 months ago.
But this time around, with a man-of-the-match award each from the domestic finals in 2013 and a reputation for seemingly effortlessly carving-up defences, the same critics will have them down as men to watch this term.
For the full story, see Friday’s Wigan Evening Post