Eels veteran rejects Panthers offer

Ben Smith

When you have Gus Gould pitching you his brief on why you should play for the Panthers, it would be hard to turn down – and Ben Smith found out how good of a sales pitch Gus can produce, after he travelled down the M4 to Penrith.

“Phil is a very passionate man and you can’t help being impressed sitting down listening to him,” Smith said.

“He is great at what he does and my ears were certainly pricked hearing what he had to say.

“I can’t lie and say I wasn’t tempted.”

As tempted as Smith was by the offer, there was one thing that prevented him from accepting it. The Eels football club. Smith is determined to help his side reverse their fortunes, and could not bring himself to turn his back on the club he loves so much, nor on his mates.

“It’s a hard thing to cop all the criticism,” Smith said.

“It hurts to be kicked in the guts every week and to keep on turning up for more. But I looked at the boys turning up to training and ripping in every day.

“I couldn’t turn my back on that. I couldn’t walk out on my mates and the club I love.”

Smith has also thrown his support behind under-fire coach Stephen Kearney, and could not see himself being anything other than a 1-club man.

“I have been part of this place for so long,” Smith said.

“I came here from the country and this is my 10th year at the club.

“It is all I know … so it is obviously good to re-sign.”

Smith, who has the defensive prowess of fellow stalwart Nathan Hindmarsh, believes that the club has what it takes to dig themselves out of the big whole they are in.

“Stephen came to the club with a plan,” Smith said.

“A vision of where we need to go, and I believe in that. We have to start from somewhere and I am 100 per cent behind him.

“It is a massive challenge to get the club going again and it will take time. I believe we will get there.

“I think that will start down there in Canberra. Chris (Sandow) is back and he has a point to prove – and so does the whole team.

“It will be tough down there, but I am confident we can get a win.”

With Smith currently on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, the veteran forward revealed that he might be on the field within a month, after his shoulder injury turned out not to be season-ending.

“I am excited to get back out there and lace the boots on and I think I will be back in about four or so weeks,” Smith said.

“It has been tough. I did all the hard work in the pre-season and got hurt in a trial. It was a blow.”

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