Roosters young gun Billy Smith has revealed it becomes “overwhelming” when thinking about an early retirement after suffering his third ACL injury on Saturday.
The 22-year-old ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament in the NSW Cup final in 2018, enduring the same injury on his right knee during pre-season in 2020.
In Round 18, during the Tricolours’ first defensive set against the Dragons, Smith knew he had torn his ACL again in his right knee but played on until it “buckled” underneath him.
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“I did my knee in the first five minutes of the game. It was our first goal-line set and I stepped off my knee into a tackle,” Smith said to the SMH.
“I kept playing as if to force myself to believe it wasn’t happening. I had to step off my knee again and tackle Zac Lomax when he scored, but it buckled and I was gone.”
Smith’s horror run of injuries also includes a shoulder operation in early 2021 as well as a Lisfranc injury that same year.
After leaving the field at Central Coast Stadium, Smith revealed the emotional moment Roosters legend Boyd Cordner comforted him.
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“I went pretty numb. I had ‘Boydo’ next to me in the sheds and he was a rock. He said, ‘Just let it all out and cry’,” Smith said.
“I wasn’t ready to see the boys and coaching staff, so I got out of there. There’s a huge amount of guilt in all this. They’ve put so much faith into me.”
While an official Roosters statement is yet to confirm the blow, Smith himself is preparing to undergo his third ACL surgery in his short 12-game NRL career.
Sharks gun Connor Tracey and Dragons winger Tautau Moga have returned to first grade after three and four knee surgeries respectively, but for now Smith explained it is too “overwhelming” to consider his own future.
“I’m not trying to think about the future because when I do, it starts to get too overwhelming.
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“Footy is what I love to do. It’s great you make money from the game, but I play because I love it. I’d be lying if I said those thoughts haven’t run through my head, but at the end of the day I’ll train and try to play the game I love again.”
Meanwhile, the Roosters’ horror run of injuries has continued with Sitili Tupouniua suffering an ACL blow, while Siosiua Taukeiaho has a suspected fractured cheekbone.
In the post-match press conference, both coach Trent Robinson and skipper James Tedesco were left upset by the brutal injuries.
“You feel for them, most guys in rugby league have gone through it and you know what is ahead of them… that is the footy life,” Robinson said.
“You move on, you feel sorry for your mate but you have to play again.”