Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur convinces Ben Smith to play another season

A heart-to-heart pre-season talk with new Parramatta coach Brad Arthur convinced Ben Smith to play on.

Smith was close to retiring after what he described as the worst season of his career last year. Before he committed to fulfilling the final year of his contract at the Eels, Arthur sought assurances.

Arthur wanted to be sure Smith's ageing body - he has no cartilage in his right knee - could withstand an intense pre-season and perform week to week at the NRL level.

Smith agreed to play but, when he started training in October, he remained unsure if his body would hold up until the Christmas break, let alone last until the start of the regular season.

''BA [Arthur] was honest and blunt and I think that's why the boys as a playing group respect him so much,'' Smith said. ''I appreciated that. The conversation was positive.

''We spoke about my body and where my head was at. Last year was not a good year on and off the field. BA knows me and what I'm about. When we had a bit of a chat, it was just [an honest] talk. I was honest with him and he was honest with me.

''My mindset was [that I'd be] retiring. After the operation, my knee didn't feel as bad as what I was expecting it to feel.''

Arthur has since rewarded Smith with a starting spot in the Eels' back row to play the Warriors on Sunday night. It will be Smith's first NRL appearance since May last year, with injuries restricting him to just 16 games in two years.

One of Arthur's demands was that Smith, 27, was able to complete every training session.

''With BA and [strength and conditioning coach] Cherry Mescia, they've understood in terms of loading I can't do as much as the other boys are doing,'' Smith said.

''The main thing for BA was that I was on the field every session and, even at the start of the pre-season, there was a question mark over that. His biggest worry was that I couldn't do that. It's been a positive that I can do every session. I had massive doubt. Every morning I'd wake up and question myself.''

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