It’s been a significant month for Bradie Smith who has been acknowledged on a national level for his commitment to study while he strives for a career as a professional rugby league player.
At the end of September he was awarded the NYC Trade Player of the Year at the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) gala awards night in Sydney where he mixed with some of the most high profile and talented players in the game.
“It’s a good experience to get acknowledged and to get to go to the events and be amongst players who are winning the awards and NRL players alone,” Smith said.
“It was great to be in the crowd with them and to be acknowledged for studying and playing footy at the same time.”
Aside from his NRL aspirations, Smith owns and operates his own building company, Bradie Smith Carpentry, where he works five days a week in addition to attending Hunter TAFE.
Smith Studied a Certificate III in Carpentry whilst working and is currently doing a Clerk of Works, which is a builder’s course he attends two nights a week.
Throughout the last few years, he’s travelled hours from Jerry Plains to Newcastle each day to attend Hunter TAFE to complete his apprenticeship.
The Newcastle Knights was also acknowledged by the RLPA for the Club’s commitment to education and supporting players while they train and learn, something Smith says has been an exceptional help to him along the way.
“The Club is right on its toes with helping me with study,” he said.
“Phil (Matthews- Manager of Player and Coach Development for Juniors) and the fellas in welfare really look after you and make sure you’re on top of your study, keeping on top of your assignments and making sure TAFE is going easily and smoothly for you.
“They are always on board with the NRL incentives and bonuses and keeping up to date with everything.
“I have to thank the Knights and people like Phil and Warren (Smiles- Football Manager) here who have been really helpful with all the evenings and TAFE work and study.
“I’d also like to thank my parents. Mum is really good and keeps me on the ball with the study and the footy.
"All the coaching staff are really helpful, they keep you on the right track with footy but they’ve also got in mind that you need to do other things like study.”
To provide the flexibility to be able to continue training and playing with the Knights while working as a builder, he decided the most ideal option was to start his own business.
“I pretty much moved to Newcastle and decided to go out on my own and do work for myself and it’s sort of the easiest way to mix football, and working,” he explained.
“You come across all assorts of challenges, particularly scheduling ones. Working for yourself is the easiest way to work around your scheduling challenges.
“You can come and go as you please when you need to be at footy or need to be at work.
“It’s going really well.”
In addition to the RLPA award, Smith was named the NRL Apprentice of the Year and was listed in the prestitgious NYC Academic Team of the Year.
With Apprentice of the Year Award, courtesy of HIA, Smith received a tool kit and the opportunity to enroll in a legal obligations course that ties in with the building Clerk of Works course he’s currently studying.
The awards and accolades have been a pleasant surprise for Smith and apt reward for his hard work during the season.
“It’s nice to be acknowledged for studying in particular. There’s always something you’re going to need after footy,” he said.
“Footy is not always going to work out for every one so it’s good to have something behind you."
As a reward for receiving the NRL’s NYC Apprentice of the Year the young Knight was acknowledged in a ceremony on field at ANZ Stadium immediately before the NRL grand final match.
Smith lapped up the atmosphere and got a taste of rugby league at it’ highest level, something he one day dreams to be a part of.
“That was absolutely unreal and may be the only grand final I’ll ever get to be down on the field for,” he said with a grin.
“You get to see the players running out and the chaos and the nerves.
Smith then watched the nail-biting game between the North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos from the corporate suites at ANZ Stadium.
“They took care of me all weekend and there were a few presentation evenings and then the grand final. It was great to watch the game and see the excitement," he said.
Following the personal success of his study and launch of his business, he’s as focused as ever to continue to excel on the football field.
“My goals are to move on and progress to the top squad. It's definite goal for the future and incorporating it with my studies is a big goal for the future,” he said.
“I really want to get rolling with the top squad.”
His advice for other young players who gave aspirations to forge a career in rugby league is to dedicate time and effort to growing off field.
“You just have to knuckle down and decide that really you want to do it and want to have something to do after footy as well as play footy,” he said.
“Football is pretty much a hobby and passion for me, but I know in the back of my head that I need to be studying and that’s the main thing that drives me is that I know I need to be doing it.”