Morgan Smithies can be double the player he was in 2019.
That’s the bold prediction of Adrian Lam after seeing the teenage forward throw himself into his first full pre-season with the senior side.
The coach has seen many youngsters fade after a sparkling breakthrough campaign – leading to the phrase ‘second-season syndrome’.
And Lam admits he has considered whether Smithies may struggle to back up his debut year in which he broke a long-standing Super League record for most tackles in a match, with 72.
But with the 19-year-old now stronger, wiser and hungry to land silverware with Wigan, Lam has tipped him for bigger and better things in 2020.
Lam said: “The danger with any young player is that they get ahead of themselves, that’s always a concern.
“We haven’t seen any of that yet with Morgan. I think he realises the competition that’s around him. He’s come back heavier this time around which isn’t a bad thing, so his speed and strength will improve as well as his knowledge of the whole game.
“Everything will improve, he’s one to watch.
“You’ve got to remember that he never had an off-season last year, so it’s amazing what he’s done, getting into the side and breaking the Super League record for most tackles in a game.
“It’s outrageous as he was only 18-years-old.”
Smithies made his debut against Catalans in March – he went toe-to-toe with Greg Bird – and established himself in the side.
“We got to a point last season where we discussed giving him time off but due to the amount of injures, we had to keep on playing him all the time – and the more he played the better he got,” said Lam.
“We said, ‘The only way to manage him was to take him off sooner in the game and not let him play as many minutes’, which was hurting the team – but we had to look after his welfare.
Now, I think with the complete off-season and knowing what he knows, he can only be double the player next year.”