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For English recruit Morgan Smithies, kicking off Magic Round in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium are the sort of games you dream being a part of.

A concept that began in the Super League in 2007, the Raiders lock has played in several of the UK’s ‘Magic Weekend’ since making his debut for the Wigan Warriors in 2019.

And five years after the NRL Magic Round weekend was introduced, Smithies gets his chance to experience the festival of football Down Under.

“I played in the Magic Weekend over the years. We’d play at all the football venues like Eland Road, St James and all those types of stadiums so I used to love having the chance to play in those,” Smithies told

“I loved how all the crowds from different teams would get amongst it. I think it’s a great opportunity for fans and as a player, when you look at all the fans in different jerseys mingling together it just proves what a great sport we play.

“The lads have told me a bit about Magic Round here and obviously Suncorp is a great stadium and holds quite a few fans so hopefully it’s packed out and that will add to the excitement of the game."

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The 23-year-old has experienced a Super League grand final at Old Trafford and represented his country in England but a sold-out Suncorp Stadium will mark the biggest NRL crowd Smithies has ever played in front of.

The workhorse lock has no qualms about how he’ll handle the roars from some of the game’s most passionate supporters and can't help but feel grateful to experience the spectacle as a player.

“I try and approach every game the same no matter who we are playing or what type of game it is but it’s definitely easier to get up for the ones that you know is going to have a big crowd,” Smithies said.

“And if you can’t get up for these games then I think it’s probably not the sport for you, so we’ll have no excuses but to be up for the challenge tomorrow night.

“We had a team run this morning and there were quite a few Raiders fans there so you can already feel the excitement and if fans showed up in good numbers for the team run then I can only imagine what the game is going to be like.

“These are definitely the games you want to be playing in and dream of playing growing up so I feel a lot of excitement around it.”

Quite the comeback for Whitehead

Coming off the bye following a gutsy win over Manly, the English international is hoping his side can carry that form into Friday's clash with the Bulldogs.

Having grown up just next door to skipper Elliot Whitehead's hometown of Bradford, Smithies was particularly buoyed by the performance of his childhood hero in Round 9 and can't wait for another opportunity to link up with his fellow Englishman.

“The camp is full of energy after the bye and we’re well aware that the bulldogs are going pretty well this year so we’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

“I’ve looked up to Smell (Whitehead) for quite a while being from Bradford so to finally play properly with him against Manly was great.

“He absolutely killed it and I can’t wait to run out with him again tomorrow night.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.