Hagan backs Smith in his NRL return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hagan backs Smith in his NRL return

By Ian McCullough 16/12/2009 05:10:18 PM Comments (0)

Former Parramatta coach Michael Hagan has backed former NRL Rookie of the Year Tim Smith to return to the NRL next season better than ever.

Smith, who has signed a two-year deal to play for Easts Brisbane in the Queensland Cup, has spent the pre-season with Brisbane Broncos and is earmarked as a potential long-term replacement for veteran five-eighth Darren Lockyer.

And Hagan believes the 24-year-old can be a success if he puts his off-field troubles behind him after he quit the NRL in 2008 after being diagnosed as bipolar following a series off-field indiscretions.

A stint with English Super League club Wigan did not work out for Smith, who returned to Australia midway through a two-year deal but Hagan believes being away from the Sydney spotlight will benefit the talented playmaker.

"His ability can never be questioned and if he has a few things resolved in his private life and can use his time in the Queensland state comp to get himself mentally and physically strong he can return to the level he was at three years ago," Hagan said.

Smith was compared to Eels great Peter Sterling, and Hagan, who was his coach when he left Parramatta, said he should make the most of his second opportunity with the Broncos and said he should benefit being away from Sydney.

"A lot of his dramas were in Sydney and I guess being away could help, but Brisbane is still a pretty big place and footy players there are high profile, but being a Queensland boy and having family up there will be a big help to him," he said.

"If they can get him fit and playing he will be a hell of a signing for Brisbane and will give them some real depth in the halves especially during State of Origin time when they lose so many players."

Hagan is also tipping Timana Tahu to pick up from where he left off when he returns to the NRL after an unsuccessful two-year stint in rugby union with NSW Waratahs.

He is well qualified to assess Tahu as he coached the 30-year-old at both Newcastle and Parramatta.

"I think at the back of end of 2007 season Timana was arguably one of the best players in the game," he said.

"His performance in our semi-final against Melbourne in a losing side was fantastic, he was probably the best player on the field that day."

Hagan also disputes claims from some critics that Tahu's injury-ravaged time in the 15-man game will make him less of a player.

"By all accounts he is working hard in training and hopefully he can put all of that behind him," he said.

"In some ways he will be fitter because he has not played too many games, it could increase the length of his career.

"I firmly believe he can come back better than he was as he is a class player."

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