Smith’s proud milestone
He’s played four grand finals and represented his country on more than 20 occasions, but running out for his 200th game as joint-captain of the Newcastle Knights still ranks highly for Jeremy Smith.
“It’s definitely special. To play 200 is a milestone in itself, but to be a captain of the Club and get to lead the team out is certainly something I hold close to my heart,” he said on Friday.
While seen as an esteemed occasion for any rugby league player, a humble Smith was eager to deflect attention away from himself and his milestone in the lead up to Monday’s game.
“It’s about doing well and playing in front of our home fans and giving them something to cheer about,” he said.
For an NRL debut, Smith’s was a relatively late one. At the age of 24 he played his maiden first grade match for the Melbourne Storm in 2004.
The journeyman has since played for the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Cronulla Sharks and Newcastle Knights and has racked up numerous representative births including 22 games for his country of birth, New Zealand.
Smith will lace up his boots and run out at Hunter Stadium on Monday as the oldest player in the rugby league.
That attainment will be far from the veteran lock’s mind. He assures his body is healthy and fit despite a niggling injury that ruled him last weekend.
“The body is good. I have had the last few days out here training and the knee is pulling up well, I’m looking forward to Monday,” he said.
“It’s been 15 days since my last game so I’m ready to go and looking forward to Monday.”
While his passion for the game has never waned, the physicality of his craft can present challenges for the hardworking, 36-year-old forward.
“When you get bumps and bruises you hobble around for a few days but then your body gets going again and you’re away,” he said when asked if he’s feeling his age.
"I have four kids, that keep me on my toes and get me up and moving.
"A couple days after the games I probably do feel it a bit more than others.
“It’s all worth it.
“I still love playing footy and am enjoying my footy as well.
“I’m still out there competing hard and playing tough footy.
“That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’ll always do.”
There have been plenty proud moments for Smith during his career that’s spanned more than 12 years.
“I have some really good highlights in my career,” he reflected.
“I will probably sit down and have a look at them more when I’ve finished playing football.
“The grand finals and World Cup stands out as well as the Four Nations.
“I’ve loved playing for my country.”
As far as high points in the red and blue, high energy match ups against one of his former Clubs come to mind.
“At the Knights here, it’s been when we beat Melbourne in Melbourne in 2013 and then we won again back up here at Hunter Stadium the very next year,” he said.
“There have been some good games to look back on.”
The prospect of continuing his tenure beyond 2016 is one he says he will contemplate as the season progresses.
“Until I stop enjoying footy, that’s when I’ll know to hang up the boots,” he said.
Already a huge occasion for the Club with players having the honour of playing on ANZAC Day, the Knights face up against traditional rivals the Manly Sea Eagles.
"We just have to turn up here on Monday ready to go and ready to fire,” he said.
“Manly haven’t been going too bad and have had a couple of good wins.
“I think we just have to compete for longer periods of time and stay in games.
“I’m sure the boys will want to play well for ANZAC Day as well.
“It’s going to be a big day and I look forward to it.”
Monday April 25 – Round 8
Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles
Gates open: 11.30am
ANZAC Ceremony: 1.50pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Tickets: CLICK HERE
Game day information: CLICK HERE
ANZAC jersey: CLICK HERE