1 March 2023

Why Harley Smith-Shields is one of the more remarkable stories in rugby league

| Tim Gavel
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Harley Smith-Shields

Harley Smith-Shields at Raiders Headquarters, Braddon. Photo: Tim Gavel.

In 2017, when all three Smith-Shields brothers played first grade together at the Gungahlin Bulls, it was evident for all to see on that day that this brotherly bond was special.

Six years later, the strength of that bond was exposed to a far greater audience.

With just nine first-grade games for the Raiders, Harley lay on the turf after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in February last year during the pre-season. It was a potentially career-threatening injury.

“I was told I needed about nine millimetres of healthy hamstring to put straight into my knee for a reconstruction. But my hamstrings had always been an issue from a young age,” says Harley.

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A solution came in the form of his older brother Jese, who at one stage looked to have a promising career as a junior with the Raiders.

Harley approached Jese about the possibility of donating his hamstring to ensure Harley’s NRL dream could remain alive.

two men in hospital beds

Harley Smith-Shields and Jese Smith-Shields in rehab. Photo: Instagram.

Twelve months later, with the hamstring successfully harvested from Jese, Harley is in the best physical condition he has been in for years.

Says Harley, “It can take up to 12 months to be back to full fitness, and it’s just over 12 months now. It was always the goal to be fully fit now”.

Twenty-four-year-old Jese, a tiler in his father’s business, isn’t likely to break any sprinting records soon.

“He doesn’t stride out too much. If he wanted to do a full sprint, he would probably pull his hamstring.”

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For Harley to get to this point where he is in a good space both physically and mentally potentially masks the struggles encountered in his rehabilitation.

“There were definitely a few dark thoughts. Some days were good, and others were bad. It’s been a long journey.”

Harley Smith-Shields in training. Photo: Raiders.com.

Harley Smith-Shields in training. Photo: Raiders.

What kept him sane was the ultimate goal of returning to where he was before.

And there was also his burgeoning e-commerce business, SPC Country Club.

“During rehab, I worked on my online businesses. I run an e-commerce business selling golf accessories, such as head covers for golf clubs. I built my own website; I pack the orders. It gives me an outlet in my spare time.”

At 23 years of age, Harley, it would appear, has the world at his feet on and off the field. He is an impressive character and has been through exceptional circumstances to get back onto the field this season.

That hard work comes to head this Saturday when the Raiders take on the Cowboys in Townsville and Harley runs on in the centres.

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