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Reimis Smith is hoping his role in the Storm’s finals campaign and the combination he has developed with wing sensation Will Warbrick can help earn him a place in the Kiwis squad for the upcoming Pacific Championships.
Smith, who missed last year’s World Cup after suffering back-to-back pectoral injuries, has played for the Junior Kiwis, represented Maori All Stars and was chosen in an extended New Zealand squad in 2018 but is yet to make his Test debut.
The 26-year-old lined up on the left wing for the Storm in Friday night’s preliminary final against Penrith, but 18 of his 22 NRL appearances this season have been at right centre alongside Warbrick who is also in contention for Kiwis selection.
Warbrick, an Olympic silver medallist with the All Blacks Sevens team, is vying with the likes of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Ronaldo Mulitalo, and Jamayne Isaako for a wing berth, but the Kiwis don’t have as many options in the centres.
“I missed out on the World Cup last year because of my injuries so I would love to get another opportunity to represent New Zealand,” Smith said.
“To share that stage with Will would be special. We are good mates, as well, so to achieve something like that with him would be unreal.”
“We played a lot of games together this year, with me at centre and him on the wing, so we have got that connection and I have seen how far he has come because I have been beside him most weeks.”
The pair have become good mates off the field and Smith, who first two seasons with the Bulldogs were on the wing, said he had tried to help Warbrick with his transition to the NRL.
“He is very professional, and I am sure they have similar values to the Melbourne Storm in the All Blacks system,” Smith said.
“He has asked for advice about things he can do better, and we have had those chats. He has really taken everything on board, and we have learned a lot of each other.”
Switching to the wing was a relatively smooth transition for Smith, who was just pleased to be playing after fearing the worst when he suffered a groin injury in Round 18.
A pec injury last year limited him to just nine NRL appearances after he was forced to undergo surgery for a second time following a mishap in the gym.
“I have been through quite a bit the last 18 months, particularly last year, so it is great to be back in this position and playing in a preliminary final,” Smith said.
“The first time I did it was hard but the second time it was more mentally tough than physically tough.”
“There is a very small percentage of people who do that injury again and especially to do in the gym – it made it even harder that it didn’t happen on the field.”
“It has been a long road for myself so to be back where I am I have to give myself a little pat on the back because it was tough.”
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