Adrian Lam knew that teenager Morgan Smithies could handle the step up to Super League when he stood toe-to-toe with Aussie veteran Greg Bird moments into his debut.
Smithies had not long been on the field against Catalans last month when he fronted the former Kangaroos international during Wigan’s 42-0 win.
It was the first of three consecutive matches for the England Academy international amid Wigan’s forwards injury crisis, and he is set to make it four against local rivals St Helens on Good Friday.
Lam admits Smithies’ progress has come quicker than he expected but has hailed the way the 18-year-old has dealt with his rapid ascent.
Lam explained: “He’s now going into his fourth game in a row, which we probably wouldn’t have done without our injuries – we’d have let him take a step back.
“But we’re not in the position to do that and Morgan has aimed up – how he’s handled it has been sensational.
“I watched him a few times firstly for England Academy against the Australian Schoolboys and I thought he was the best player on the field.
“From that moment I was looking forward to him having some role at this club this season.
“Due to all the injuries it’s come before I expected, but since he’s been named in the side we’ve seen his great temperament, how tough he is, and he’s certainly made a difference to our team.
“At such a young age, I can see a massive future for him. He’s got all the skills and ability, he’s a great learner, he’s tough and aggressive.
“You don’t stand up to Greg Bird unless you’re a confident player, and I see an air of confidence and a little bit of arrogance about him.
“I think you need that in a top player, alongside respect, and he’s a great listener which helps in mulling him into the player we want him to be.”
Halifax-born Smithies impressed the Wigan coaching staff with his dedication when he completed an electrician course alongside his playing, often working extra hours on the training field to keep pace with his team-mates.
Lam said: “What’s important for this club and me as a coach is that he gets his priorities in life right.
“We work really hard on that and that was good to see.
“He’s now training with us full-time, which is a big change for him. When he has a full pre-season doing that we’ll see another difference again.”
Former Wigan coach Shaun Wane compared Smithies to current captain Sean O’Loughlin earlier this year and Lam can see the similarities.
Lam added: “It’s a fair comparison in their temperaments.
“In terms of leadership we’ll see that as he goes – Morgan isn’t the biggest talker at the moment but he’s only young and that will come.
“Talent-wise he’s as good as we’ve had here at the club.
“He reminds me of Mick Cassidy, who’s part of the coaching staff here, in being a young kid who's hard and aggressive and you know what you’ll get from him every week.
“Super League is a challenge every week but I’m sure he’ll get used to it.”
Club: Wigan Warriors
Amateur club: Siddal
Position: Back row
First team appearances: 3
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