Will Smith keen to stay with Panthers

After helping Penrith avoid the wooden spoon in the final round of the NRL season, improved fullback Will Smith revealed he’s in talks to extend his stay at the club.

The 23-year-old scored a try and broke the line twice in what was arguably the best performance of his burgeoning career in Saturday’s 30-12 win over Newcastle.

However the impressive outing could also be his last in Panthers colours, with the Knights junior without a contract for next season.

Newcastle are understood to have reached out to Smith’s management for a return to the Hunter, but the utility indicated his first preference is to stay at the foot of the mountains.

“There is talk there with the Panthers but nothing just yet,” Smith said after the game.

“I’d prefer to stay at the Panthers – they have helped me develop into where I’m at today so I’d love to stay.”

Smith filled in for the then-injured Peter Wallace during the club’s fairytale run to the preliminary final last season, but conceded he was a mere passenger in the side.

However the second-year player has elevated his game this year after being called upon to replace the sidelined Matt Moylan and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the No.1 jersey.

“Last year I was just another number on the paddock whereas this year I think I stepped it up,” he said.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary suggested Smith’s ability to cover a number of positions could earn him another contract at the club.

“He’s taken a while to get going … but he’s definitely been a shining light for the last few weeks,” he said.

“I’d love to keep Will. He trains hard and he works hard and you always love players who cover different spots.”

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