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The forgotten role rivals played in developing two of Leeds Rhinos’ biggest stars

Tomorrow’s clash between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls may only be a pre-season friendly but the once huge fixture will be a big day for one Leeds player.

That of course is Cameron Smith who for the first time will wear the number 13 shirt previously worn by legends such as Kevin Sinfield and Ellery Hanley.

“Yeah it’ll be amazing,” Smith said on the club’s YouTube channel, “I’ve been itching to play in it. I’d been going to play in it sooner but I had a little bit of a niggle before Christmas so I’m buzzing to be back this week.”

Smith has had to wait for his first minutes of pre-season whilst others have been managed in different ways.

Smith believes this is key going into a new season: “I think it’s key, you touched on it there as well playing different positions and doing a role that you wouldn’t normally fulfil is good for the team and longevity of the season. I think it’s a smart decision for staggered games into the season and the minutes under our belt.

“I don’t know what number pre-season this is for me but this one has been extremely detailed, intense and we’ve built a great togetherness. Even though I’ve had a slight niggle I’ve learnt a lot about myself from a rehab point of view.”

It’s forgotten that Smith and teammate Mikolaj Oledzki developed a lot with the Bulls five years ago: “Me and Mikolaj went there. We were so young, 17 years old and Bradford were under the pump at the time. For us to go into that squad was pretty scary because we weren’t doing very well but they’re an awesome club with a really big following. I really enjoyed my time there and put me in stead playing against men and getting a feel for Championship rugby.

“Crazy fella is Geoff Toovey, I’ve not spoke to him since I left there but I know he was an awesome player and an awesome coach too. I didn’t really have much time with him but the time I did was great.”

Despite the fact Smith respects the Bulls, he wants Leeds to begin making Headingley into a fortress in 2023:

“We want to build Headingley into a fortress and this will be a good way to put our best foot forward on Sunday and start with a win.

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