Jeremy Smith’s NRL career was over before it begun.
Signed to a deal with Manly in 2001, immaturity got the better of him.
Put simply, drinking and fighting cost him.
Veteran coach Peter Sharp grew tired of his off-field antics and punted him months later.
“I was always in a bit of trouble before I left the Gold Coast to go to Manly,” Smith told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“I just didn’t mind having a scrap. That was the way that I thought it was – footy and drinking and the culture.
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“Peter Sharp was there at the time, he used to call me into his office every Monday morning (and say); ‘I’ve had a bad report about you’.”
Despite the regular chats with the coach, Smith kept getting in trouble.
“In my younger days that’s all footy was to me, going out with the boys and drinking and carrying on,” he said.
“That’s the way I thought first grade was.”
After a frank conversation with the Sea Eagles boss, Smith was shown the door.
“Coming toward the end of the year, he said; ‘I just can’t keep you. We’re just going to have to let you go’ and then I said; ‘what? So, you’re sacking me?’ and he said; ‘it’s not really getting sacked if you find another club’ and I said; ‘yeah well, I can’t find another club, so you’ve pretty much just sacked me’,” he said.
It was during this time that Smith’s father suggested he should give away the game all together.
He linked with Tweed Heads in the Queensland Cup and Melbourne came calling in 2013.
This time he was ready.
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“I remember coming home and my dad said, ‘I think it’s time for you to get yourself a job you’ve missed the boat now’,” Smith recalled.
“I was only playing footy with my mates and having a bit of fun at the time when I got the call to go to Melbourne. I thought maybe this is it.
“I got down to Melbourne and ended up debuting in 2004. It was just by luck; I’d trained the whole pre-season there 2003 and 2004 and got picked during the year to play my first game.”
As fate would have it, Smith and Sharp would reunite following his rookie NRL season.
Sharp joined the Storm ahead of 2005 to work under Craig Bellamy.
“In 2005 he ended up down in Melbourne as assistant coach and he’s always said to people, ‘the best thing I’ve ever done to you was sacking you. I made your career’,” Smith said.
“We have a laugh about it now but I suppose in those times your living and your learning and I was just lucky enough to get another opportunity to be able to go on and do what I love.”
Smith would go on to play 22 Test for New Zealand, 215 first grade games across four clubs and win two premierships.