This time last year, Lindsay Smith was preparing for the NSW Cup Grand Final, fast-forward 12 months, and he is 80 minutes away from making his maiden NRL Grand Final.

In the midst of a breakout season that has seen him appear in 21 games this season off the interchange bench, Lindsay Smith is another of Penrith's strong brigade of local juniors, having been part of the system since the age of 14.

The St Marys junior has at times been held back by injury, but has played 25 NRL games since making his debut for the club in 2021 and the former Australian Schoolboy will likely experience an elevated role next season with the loss of Spencer Leniu, who is set to join the Sydney Roosters.

Speaking to Zero Tackle, Lindsay Smith spoke about his improvement which has seen him cement a spot in the first grade team, how injuries nearly derailed his career and goals he has for the future.

"I guess it's just years of learning," Smith told Zero Tackle on his improvement, which has seen him promoted from the serve grade to a full-time member of the NRL line-up.

"[In the] last sort of three years being a part of the system and learning from guys like Fish (James Fisher-Harris) and Yowie (Isaah Yeo) and just trying to soak up every bit of knowledge I can from them.

"[I'm] lucky enough to get more of a chance this year and I think that the work over the last couple of years has helped me this year to sort of, I guess cement that spot in the bench there."

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As the Penrith Panthers get ready to face the Melbourne Storm on Friday in a 2020 Grand Final rematch, Smith's career was nearly over before it began after having back-to-back shoulder reconstructions during his junior career.

Instead, the forward admitted the injuries created an opportunity for him to hit the weight room and become a bigger forward than he was at the time.

"I guess everyone has doubts from time to time," Smith told Zero Tackle when asked if he had any doubts about making the NRL after suffering the injuries.

"I guess everything was going right up until I was 18, and then double-shoulder reco (reconstruction) sort of was a step back, but I guess I saw it as an opportunity.

"I was quite skinny at the time and I still am now, I'm not the biggest forward in the game...so I guess I saw it as an opportunity and from here like guys like Ivan [Cleary] and Camo (Matt Cameron) and all the guys behind the scenes, everyone's got a different sort of journey to the NRL and everyone's body develops differently.

"[I] just had to put faith and trust in them and keep learning under guys like Fish (James Fisher-Harris) and Yowie (Isaah Yeo) and Moss (Moses Leota) and I just put faith in the system."

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Already contracted until the end of next season, reports have emerged over the past couple of days that the Panthers are looking to extend his stay after a breakout season.

This was followed by the Penrith Panthers officially announcing on Wednesday that he has signed a two-year extension to remain with his close friends and best mates until the end of the 2026 season.

Now, apart from winning the NRL premiership this year, Smith has one goal in mind, and that is to play State of Origin football and represent the NSW Blues- an honour that many of his club teammates have achieved over the past three to four years.

"Obviously, as a kid, you obviously dream about all that stuff, it still is a goal and a dream of mine, hopefully in the future, but just gotta take one step at a time," he revealed.

"It's good to have goals and aspirations, but just gotta stay in the present and keep improving day in, day out."

"I'm the only one that can sort of determine where I get to through my training and work ethic and I have high aspirations in the future but right now all the focus is just on this final series and hopefully winning the grand final," he added.