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Overnight wrap: Smith, Villa, late mail
Canberra playmaker Jason Smith has rejected an offer from the Gold Coast Titans and agreed to play for North Queensland next year.
The 34-year-old five-eighth came to a decision last night after consulting his Raiders team-mates and family members earlier today. Smith will play alongside Dally M Medallist Johnathan Thurston in the halves for the Cowboys.
The possibility of ending his NRL career with a premiership has swayed the Canberra veteran. Smith last played NRL finals football for Parramatta in 1999 and his manager Sam Ayoub says the opportunity for his client to spearhead the Cowboys' 2007 premiership campaign had been too good to refuse.
Elsewhere, Richard Villasanti has signed for one more season at the Sharks despite being heavily linked to the Wests Tigers. Villa joined Cronulla mid-season from the New Zealand Warriors who were forced to squeeze him out due to salary cap restrictions.
The footy kicks off in the Shire tonight as Cronulla and Newcastle put their top eight spots on the line in the opening clash of Round 21.
Both teams are locked on 22 competition points with the loser of tonight's match in danger of slipping to as low as tenth by the end of the weekend if both Canberra and Parramatta can secure victories.
The Sharks take a four match losing streak into the encounter but will be buoyed by the fact their last win was a 26-16 win over the Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium last month. Star halves Andrew Johns and Brett Kimmorley again hold the key to their side's chances of victory though both have been down on their best form in recent weeks.