Harley Smith-Shields is ready to make his NRL return 18 months since he last stepped onto the field – and this time a piece of his brother will be running out with him.
The 22-year-old was told he needed to find someone with a healthy hamstring if he wanted to ever run at top speed again after rupturing his ACL during pre-season training in February last year.
Having played just nine NRL games for the Green Machine, the rookie outside back turned to his older brother Jese to ask for the ultimate favour.
"The doctors needed a good hamstring muscle for a knee graft and the problem was I've had trouble with my hamstrings ever since I was a little kid," Smith-Shields told NRL.com
"I like to try and run fast, even if I’m not that fast, and I didn’t want to have that [thought of my slow hamstring] in the back of my mind.
"I didn’t even know a hamstring donor was a possibility until my physio ran it by me.
"So I decided to ask my brother and at first, he actually thought I was joking and started laughing at me.
"But when he realised I wasn’t joking, he didn’t hesitate for a second. He said he’d help me out with whatever I needed which was pretty cool."
Rugby league has long been the sport that has united the Smith-Shields brothers Harley, Jese and older brother Dale.
The three siblings made history in 2017 when they all played first-grade for the Gungahlin Bulls together while Jese also represented the Raiders in the Harold Matthews competition in 2014.
I’ll always owe him one, not that he’d ever ask for it.Harley Smith-Shields
“Jese came through the grades in Canberra here as well but he got a few injuries which sort of put an end to that for him,” Smith-Shields said.
“But we all grew up playing footy together and it’s always been a big part of our life, so I guess that’s why Jese was happy to help me out with my knee.
"We’re only 18 months apart so we’ve always been close but I think this has brought us even closer."
Smith-Shields will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2021, where he ran in a total of three tries and two try assists, in a bid to get into Ricky Stuart's side in Round 1.
With Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker, Kiwi international Seb Kris and Matthew Timoko all vying for centre spots, Smith-Shields is set to bring more healthy competition to the outside backs in 2023.
“Seb (Kris) and Mokes (Timoko) both killed it towards the back end of the year and really found their form in first grade," he said.
“I’ve just got to do what I can to earn a spot but I’m also just happy to play wherever I can. It doesn’t matter what position, coming off the bench or even in NSW Cup.
“I just want to play some consistent footy, get some games under my belt and just play some footy again.”
Match: Cowboys v Raiders
Round 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville