NRL or bust for ageless Smith
In recent years the Newcastle Knights have been ahead of the curve when developing rookies within their NSW Cup squad, especially when it comes to surrounding them with veterans of the game.
The Knights' strategy has seen them reach the past two grand finals, where they won last year's premiership against M1 rivals Wyong Roos.
Led by Clint Newton last year, others such as Matt Hilder, Timana Tahu and Anthony Quinn have all ended their careers taking this approach, while all still being capable to do a job in first grade when called upon.
At 35, Knights lock Jeremy Smith – the second-oldest player in the NRL behind Warriors recruit Ali Lauitiiti – told NRL.com he won't be the next Newcastle veteran to take his career down this path, and that 2016 will most likely be his final season.
"Once I'm finished playing NRL that'll probably do me. I've been very lucky with the career that I've had and I'm happy to hang my hat on what I have done so it's probably not something I'd like to look into," Smith said.
"There's too many good young kids coming through and I wouldn't want to hold them up a spot just to keep me on for one more year. We'll just have to see how it plays out.
"Coaching-wise I wouldn't mind helping out somewhere along the line especially with the good young kids we have coming through. I've loved Newcastle since arriving here four years ago and I can't see myself leaving here any time soon. It's my home now."
The elder statesmen of the Knights being currently the only player at the club over the age of 30, Smith insists that becoming a leader at the club has come naturally and not forced by his experience.
Nicknamed 'Uncle' by his teammates Smith isn't troubled by his age. Co-captaining the Knights with Trent Hodkinson in their loss to the Raiders last weekend Smith remains a shot at skippering the side.
"Leaders don't pick themselves. It just sort of comes naturally with the territory. It's something I never wanted to do but I've had to take on board for the betterment of the team," Smith said.
"Coming from Melbourne where we had some real good leaders there has probably helped shape my career towards being a leader. But really I'm out there just doing my best. To be a good leader I think is to get the job done on the field.
"My age doesn't bother me. I'm fairly fit and feeling as young as I can. Hanging around the younger boys, they're really enthusiastic, so it gets you up and going when times are tough."
Under new coach Nathan Brown, Smith said there's a new culture and feel about the club – a necessary one according to the experienced forward, with 16 members of Newcastle's wider squad yet to play in the NRL.
"I don't think these young kids need much motivation either, they know their spots are on the line," he said.
"'Brownie' said on day dot it doesn't matter who you are, if you're doing the right things at training then you'll be the first one to be picked so that definitely gives them confidence too knowing the benefits of doing the right thing."