As part of an NRL.com series on players aiming for a bounce-back season, Troy Whittaker looks at what Reimis Smith can do at new club Melbourne to re-establish himself as a rising star.
If anyone is able to help a player realise their potential, it’s Storm super-coach Craig Bellamy.
That’s what he’ll aim to do for Reimis Smith, the ex-Bulldogs winger who has joined premiers Melbourne until the end of 2022.
Smith’s stint at Canterbury was littered with highlights, including long-range tries and leaping efforts to reel in high kicks.
But the speedy 23-year-old has lacked consistency; though, in fairness, it’s hard to perform each week in a struggling side.
He won only 17 of the 49 NRL matches he played in blue and white, yet amassed an impressive record of 25 tries (0.51 per game).
All but four of Smith’s 14 appearances in 2020 were at centre. With Suliasi Vunivalu’s departure to rugby, the obvious path for Smith to break into the Storm line-up is on the wing.
Vunivalu, a two-time premiership winner, has set the bar extremely high having scored 86 tries in 111 matches (0.77 per game).
As a winger, Smith notched up 21 tries in 37 starts (0.56 per game) despite the attacking limitations of his team.
At Melbourne, with the likes of Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant to engineer the offence, Smith could have the chance to build on his impressive strike-rate.
There’s no guarantee that Smith will play from the jump, however. Fellow recruit George Jennings and Isaac Lumelume, who debuted last season, are challenging for the same spot.
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“It’s very exciting, I can’t wait to hopefully get the opportunity round one,” Smith told reporters in January.
“One of my attributes is catching those high balls, cross-field kicks – it’s my bread and butter, really. I strongly believe in myself and I think I can fill that hole [left by Vunivalu] and do a bit more.”
Smith debuted in 2016, playing only one match in round 12 against Canberra and bagging a double.
He was consigned to reserve grade in 2017 but enjoyed a breakout season the following year with seven tries in 11 games.
The son of former Kiwi international Tyran Smith, he also produced 12 line-breaks and averaged 139 metres per game in 2018 – marks that remain the peaks of his young career to date.
While Canterbury’s form was again middling at best, Smith enjoyed another good campaign in 2019. Twelve tries and six line-breaks were tallied in 23 appearances as well an average of 108 run metres.
But last year, Smith managed only four tries in 14 games as he was kept mainly at centre in a tough season.
A pair of one-match suspensions would have added to his frustrations. Though he may not have been as dangerous in attack – with only two line-breaks to his name – Smith made 100-plus metres in nine outings and averaged 17 receipts of the ball.
As a return to the wing in a champion team looms, Smith may soon rediscover his try-scoring prowess and go to another level under the guidance of Bellamy and a strong leadership group.