Brandon Smith wouldn’t have trotted out on Friday night if the Roosters were playing anyone but the Rabbitohs, but he’s glad he did because he got to witness something special from a teammate who he says won them the game.
The Roosters rake knows Jared Waerea-Hargreaves well having spent many tours with him in the same room playing for New Zealand.
Watch every game of every round of the 2023 NRL Telstra Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
But he saw a different side of the veteran front-rower who returned from injury against the old foe and finished with more metres than any other forward after he and Smith came on after 24 minutes and completely changed the game.
“He said ‘I’m going through these guys’ and everyone jumped on the back of that. Without Jared today we wouldn’t have won the game,” Smith said after the 20-18 win.
“I’ve had the privilege of rooming with ‘Jazza’ every tour we’ve been on, so I know what he’s about and I know what he brings.
“But this game here was something new, his mentality toward controlled aggression, the way he spoke to the team out on the field when the scuffles were going on and how he stayed composed – I was quite proud of him, I know that’s something he’s been working on.
“We don’t want Jared playing one week on and three weeks off, we want him all the way through the season and I thought he took a big step towards that controlled aggression without being soft.”
Keeping a cool head is something Waerea-Hargreaves didn’t do in last year’s fiery finals clash, but while others lost the plot after a Joseph Manu high shot, it was actually the big man who stayed composed and kept his teammates in check.
“In that scuffle he grabbed a few of the boys and said ‘it’s all good, it’s all good, keep calm’ and he was telling us to control our emotions,” Smith said.
“He spoke about discipline at the beginning of the game and I said ‘are these words coming out of your mouth?’ Outstanding.
“He didn’t look too old out there, he’s looking a lot younger than the other front-rowers but he’s got an ugly head, geez it’s battered and bruised.”
Smith was also feeling pretty battered and bruised after copping a whack from former Storm teammate Felise Kaufusi in round one, with the injury flaring up last week against the Warriors when he was forced off early.
It wasn’t the start he’d hoped for after making the big move north, but he showed his class on Friday with a trademark try out of dummy-half in his best performance of the season.
“The injury from my second game was probably related to that second incident. Bloody Felise, I hate him. I’ve been cheeky to him for seven years of my career and he finally got some payback,” he joked.
“It’d been quite a disappointing start to my career at the Roosters but today was a big step for me, just getting through a game.
“The body feels all right, the back’s still a bit sore, but just getting through a game and getting that confidence – I’m still building with this team, I still have a lot of improvement to go.
“If it wasn’t the Bunnies I probably wouldn’t have played, this was a game I wanted to be a part of. I took a record amount of anti-inflammatories to keep me out there, thank the Lord for Naprosyn.
“I did everything I could to get out there and we knew we had the week off and the physio said it would hurt but I couldn’t do any more damage. He gave me the green light to push through a little bit of pain.”
Smith has played in two grand finals with the Storm, and he said the atmosphere on Friday night was almost as intense which is why he was so desperate to take part in his first derby.
“Robbo yelled at me at the start of the week, so it must be a Rabbitohs game,” said Smith, who copped a spray from his coach on Tuesday.
“I don’t really read the paper too often to be honest, so I didn’t really see anything during the week but it’s kind of an unwritten thing, an unspoken thing.
“I’ve come into the club and everyone is just a little bit more focused than usual, a little bit more antsy than usual.”
#Teammates #inspirational #speech #leaves #Brandon #Smith #stunned