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Maturing Cheese excited for hectic fortnight ahead

An emotion-charged fortnight beckons for Storm superstar Brandon Smith and it could be just what he needs to inspire him back to his devastating best.

Known for his loveable, happy-go-lucky, renegade persona, Smith has been his harshest critic this year as he admits he's struggled to enjoy his footy — contributing to performances falling shorter than he would like.

But the next two weeks could be just the ticket to him “getting happy” and tearing it up for the rest of the NRL season.

While the chance to pull on the Kiwis jersey, build bonds and experience the electric crowd set to pack Mt Smart Stadium for next Saturday’s Test with Tonga will be one source of inspiration, should he make it through unscathed, he would mark his 100th NRL game the following week in Round 16. The Storm are scheduled for an away trip to Manly, coincidentally on his father Shane Smith’s birthday.

“Fingers crossed I make it through, because it’s my dad’s birthday, so it would be pretty special to play my 100th game on his birthday and I think he’ll be coming to the game so I look forward to that,” Smith said.

“I’ve been playing rugby league since the age of three; mum worked in the canteen at the Waiheke Sports Club and dad worked behind the bar.

Brandon Smith could bring up his 100th NRL game in Round 16.
Brandon Smith could bring up his 100th NRL game in Round 16. ©NRL Photos

“I sold the raffle tickets from age four until pretty much 13, every day. I used to stack the beers from behind the fridge for the old man and he just pushed me to be the person I am today.

“I moved away from home when I was 13, and that was pretty tough, and I was always a kid who had to sacrifice a few things.

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“I didn’t have too much freedom as a young fella. It’s probably why I’m ‘mad’ now.

“I was always training, I started footy training when I was three, boxing training when I was seven and I started running the roads. Dad would follow me in the car and push me to be the player and person I am and I’m stoked that he did it.

“It was hard at the time, but I’m living out my dream and their dream as well," Smith said. "To be able to play one game was special, but to be able to play 100, and on my dad’s birthday, would be a massive thing.”

Family will also be in his thoughts when he makes his eighth Test appearance for the Kiwis, who boast an in-form squad many pundits rate as good a chance as any to lift the World Cup later this year.

Brandon Smith is expected to start at hooker in the Pacific Test against Tonga.
Brandon Smith is expected to start at hooker in the Pacific Test against Tonga. ©NRL Photos

Smith is one of just five players – alongside Ken Maumalo, Joseph Manu, Briton Nikora and Joseph Tapine – who played in the Kiwis’ last match in November 2019, but this time the squad will have plenty more with Test experience back in the fold including Storm teammates Jahrome Hughes, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and the Bromwich brothers.

The nuggety middle, who is expected to start at hooker in Michael Maguire's side, said he was excited at the thought of experiencing the atmosphere both sets of supporters would bring to the occasion.

“Definitely the Kiwis game is really special, I get to go back to New Zealand and play in front of all the New Zealand people, which is really cool, and the Tongan fans are crazy,” Smith said.

Jahrome Hughes is all class

“The Tongan side is a really good side as well, a really good forward pack. Jason Taumalolo is in form, he’ll be hard to contain, and then you’ve got Addin Fonua-Blake who is a very special forward, so I’m looking forward to it but most of all I’m looking forward to the crowd.

“The last time we played there was absolutely electric. They sing songs throughout the whole game and you can barely hear the boys out of the field. I’m excited about that… it makes you feel like you’re at an English soccer game or something.”

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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