FORMER Knights prop Craig Smith could make a shock rugby league comeback nine years after his NRL retirement after registering with Lakes United.
The 43-year-old has signed the paperwork with the Newcastle Rugby League club, but whether he takes the field will depend on his other commitments.
Smith is Troy Pezet’s assistant coach for the Knights under 20s and also has young children, which prevents him from committing to the Seagulls full-time.
‘‘You watch him in here [at the Knights], he does all the wrestling and contact stuff with the 20s.’’– DEAN NOONAN
‘‘Physically, I think he’d be more than up to it. That window of when that would actually happen would be pretty slim,’’ Lakes coach Dean Noonan said.
The Knights under 20s have a bye this weekend, and Noonan had hoped Smith would make his debut for Lakes on Saturday against Kurri Kurri, but he had other commitments.
Smith racked up 153 NRL appearances over 11 years for South Sydney, the Illawarra Steelers, St George Illawarra and the Knights along with 12 Tests for New Zealand before his retirement in 2006.
Smith is a renowned fitness fanatic, and Noonan said he had no doubts he could still handle the pressure of playing local first-grade rugby league.
‘‘You watch him in here [at the Knights], he does all the wrestling and contact stuff with the 20s,’’ he said.
‘‘He leads a lot of it.’’
If Smith takes the field for the Seagulls, he will be the oldest player in the Newcastle Rugby League, surpassing 39-year-old Lakes prop Tim Harlow.
Smith’s registration for Lakes follows news that former Australian Test and NSW back-rower Andrew Ryan, 36, is eyeing off a comeback with South Newcastle this season.
Ryan retired from Canterbury in 2011 after 292 NRL games and played his last game in 2012, when he appeared in a one-off match for Dubbo CYMS against Parkes.
It was reported initially that Ryan was contemplating only a stand-alone match for Souths on Sleapy’s Day in round 14.
But Souths sources said Ryan was keen to play a more prominent role at the club.