ROUGHYEDS are happy to confirm that unlucky Ed Smith will be back in the squad for the 2021 Championship season and determined to justify the faith the club invested in the former York City Knights captain when he faced a long haul back from injury in January, 2019.
Coaching staff and management acknowledge that 27-year-old Smith is a vastly-experienced and talented back-row forward or centre who needs only one thing to become a highly-valued member of the playing group — better luck.
He had played 130 games for his home-town club York when, in 2017, at the age of 24, he suffered a serious knee injury which needed major surgery to reconstruct the joint after damage to the anterior cruciate ligament.
Later, while on holiday and enjoying time on the beach, the knee let him down again and he had a second reconstruction to put it right.
It was in January last year, by which time he was living in Salford after a move from York to Manchester in his full-time career in banking, that Oldham received a tip-off that here was a quality player who was out of contract and keen to put his injury problems behind him and go again.
He was invited to the Vestacare Stadium where, unannounced, he spent nearly six months on rehab under the watch of the Roughyeds' medical team. When he got the all-clear to play again in July last year, he signed initially to the end of the 2019 season and played as a substitute in three late-season games, all ending in wins as Oldham raced to promotion.
His debut was in a hard-fought and tense 15-14 win at London Skolars on August 3, after which this website reported:
“Smith did marvellously well, considering it was his first game after two major reconstructions of the same knee; a two-year absence from the sport; and extensive rehab of six months or more.”
He kept his place in the 17 for the next two home games against Newcastle Thunder and Doncaster (two more wins) as Oldham crept ever nearer their promotion target.
Sadly, he hasn’t donned the Oldham jersey since then. First, it was reported that he was out with a rib injury and later that he needed a relatively minor operation on his other knee which he was able to get done while there were no games due to the pandemic.
He has now signed a one-year deal to cover 2021, after which he talked of his latest surgery and of his determination to emerge from his injury frustrations of the last three years and to enjoy a few more seasons in the sport he loves.
“The cartilage was damaged in this knee and the surgeon removed it rather than trying to repair it. Recovery is quicker and easier than that after a repair job, but you tend to get problems in later life. If I want to play again, and that’s a given, I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it.
“For now, I’m just intent on putting all these injury problems behind me and repaying the club and my team mates for the chance they’ve given me to strike back.
“I’m back in the gym and I’ve been doing a lot of cycling and a little bit of running. Matt (Diskin) is going to give me a personal programme to work on between now and the start of squad training again.
“I’m very conscious of the fact that I’ve been at the club since January, 2019 and most of that time I’ve spent in the physiotherapy room. It’s been a very frustrating period of my life.
“I’ve got to be true to the club, to my fellow players and to myself, but I’m sure I can do this and repay all the people at Oldham who have stood by me. I need to be out on the pitch with the lads and I’m looking forward to doing that and playing my part in helping the boys to enjoy a successful 2021 campaign.
Head coach Matt Diskin said he was very pleased indeed to get Smith’s signature on another contract.
“As Ed says, it’s been a very frustrating period for him during his time at the club. It’s also been frustrating for us because it is easy to see how much talent and ability he has, not to mention his desire and his determination to come through on the other side.
“You’ve only to spend a bit of time with him in training sessions to see his ability and his talent. He’s a very smart lad who can play, knows the game inside out and has a lot of experience.
“We’ve given him another chance because we know without any shadow of doubt that if we can keep him fit and healthy he’ll be an excellent member of the squad.”