Former St Helens scrum-half Matty Smith says he is ready for a fresh challenge with Catalan Dragons.
The 31-year-old Smith says he is excited by his move to the south of France after becoming surplus to requirements at St Helens.
Smith had two years left on his contract with his home-town club, but made only seven appearances in 2018 after losing his spot to Danny Richardson and jumped at the chance to link up with Catalan coach Steve McNamara, who gave him his opportunity with England in 2014.
“It was frustrating last year,” said Smith, who has signed a two-year deal with the Dragons and began pre-season training a week ago.
“But Saints were playing so well, I could understand why they didn’t want to change things around.
“I did have other options in Super League, but I think they are creating something special here and I want to be a part of it.
“I believe we can win trophies, as they proved last year at Wembley, and i just want to get out there and give it my best.
“My body feels fresh and I’m ready to go.”
Smith played football for Everton alongside Wayne Rooney from the age of 12 to 15 and is looking forward to running out at two the biggest football stadiums in the world in 2019.
The Perpignan club are close to confirming plans to switch their home Super League match against Wigan in May to the Nou Camp after receiving an invitation from the Barcelona president.
“If I get the chance to run out there, it will be something special and we’ve also got the Magic Weekend at Anfield,” Smith said.
Smith is a straight replacement for Australian Josh Drinkwater, but McNamara says he has yet to decide on his half-back partner for 2019.
Samisoni Langi, Greg Bird and Lucas Albert were all used at stand-off in 2018, while the arrival from Wigan of Sam Tomkins will also give McNamara the option of switching Tony Gigot from full-back.
“We’ve got lots of competition for the half-back spots,” said McNamara.
Smith also revealed he has reservations over the introduction of the golden point.
Super League matches which finish level after 80 minutes will go into 10 minutes of sudden-death extra time as part of a string of changes planned for 2019.
Smith, who kicked a 40-metre drop goal after the final hooter to snatch a 25-24 victory for Saints against another of his old clubs Salford in 2017, believes golden point could be unfair on the losing team.
“I like a one-pointer and it creates drama for the fans if games go to golden point,” Smith said at his first press conference as a Catalan Dragons player in Perpignan on Tuesday.
“But the game is hard enough, playing for 80 minutes, and sometimes you earn the right for that one point for a draw.
“When you’ve gone away to Wigan and drawn 20-20, then golden point comes in and it’s snatched away from you. You’ve earned the right for a point really, so it’s a mixed bag for me.”