They may not have the glitz of a Timana Tahu or a Krisnan Inu, but Parramatta backrower Ben Smith claims NRL opponents can write off the Eels’ `Dad’s Army’ backline at their own peril. The off-season acquisition of veteran three-quarters Chris Walker, Paul Whatuira and Chris Hicks to fill a barren backline was met with some derision by critics, who claimed the trio had passed their used by date following Super League stints. Walker and Hicks are both 30-plus, while Whatuira turns 30 mid-year, with the trio essentially coming in for the departed Tahu (released), Inu (Warriors) and Eric Grothe (retired). The lack of star power out wide threw up the possibility that Smith would go back to his younger days and return to the centres, but he confirmed he would remain in the backrow with Eels coach Stephen Kearney more than happy with his options out wide. “There’s a lot of experience there out in the backs and I think we’re going to be very underrated there,” Smith said. “A lot of people have said they’re too old and that sort of stuff but I think experience makes up for a lot of that. “(The critics) have said these guys are on their last legs, but the way they’re been training this off-season, they’ve got a point to prove and I think they’re getting excited about getting out there and playing.” The veteran trio will compete with the likes of youngster Ryan Morgan, who started against Wests Tigers in last week’s trial, in the battle to fill the two vacant three-quarter berths alongside established pair Joel Reddy and Luke Burt. Smith said the knowledge and winning culture the likes of Whatuira – who won two grand finals with Penrith and Wests Tigers – bring to the club will prove invaluable. “They’re guys that have played State of Origin football, won grand finals,” Smith said of Whatuira and Walker, with the latter having played six Origin matches for Queensland in 2001-02. “They know how to win games and score tries and finish games and that’s probably something we were lacking, a bit of confidence and a bit of maturity out there.”

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