Will Smith is not your average 17-year-old.
With many of his friends worrying about their upcoming Year 12 exams, the Rockingham Sharks and West Coast Pirates centre is preparing to make his international rugby league test debut for the South African Rhinos against Malta on Sunday.
Despite his tender age, Smith has shown great maturity both on and off the field and says the chance to represent his country is a dream come true.
“It’s a massive opportunity,” he said.
“Being little I always wanted to represent my country in rugby union, but I started league a few years ago and to be able to represent my country in league is massive not only for me but for my family and all my friends back home.”
Born in South Africa, Smith grew up in Pretoria before moving to Perth at the age of six and says he jumped at the opportunity to play for his country of birth.
“Ed Easter from the Pirates actually told me that South Africa was putting together a rugby league team for the World Cup. This was a while ago, and I got back from States and Shane Gillham (WA-connected South African player) messaged me and wanted me to get involved in the team,” he said.
It could have all been so different for Smith, however, with a shoulder injury almost pushing him away from the game last year.
“After last year’s SG Ball season I had to get a shoulder operation and thought to myself, how about giving up rugby – I didn’t have the fire for it anymore,” he said.
“This past year has just made me want it even more.”
2018 has seen Smith become a senior player within the Pirates SG Ball squad, make his First Grade debut with Rockingham, earn State selection at the Combined Affiliated States Championships and selection to the CAS side to compete in the Australian Schoolboys Championships next month.
Smith says he can’t quite believe the success he has had in such a short space of time.
“It’s been massive, I’m speechless with how this year’s gone,” he said.
“I would never have thought I’d be representing my country.”
Above all, Smith is keen to leave his mark on the international scene.
“I just want to put my best foot forward – play the best I can. In my position, playing centre on the weekend, making tackles, running hard lines and showing my fellow players what I’ve got,” he said.
“I’m just going to go to sleep the night before and not overthink things, enjoy myself the next day, go to the game, know what my role is and go out and enjoy myself.”