Best comes to those who wait, says Smith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Best comes to those who wait, says Smith

By Mark Geenty 30/04/2009 04:31:49 PM Comments (0)

For someone who carried the "little-known" label into the 2007 NRL grand final, Jeremy Smith hasn't stopped raising the bar since.

An NRL premiership with the Melbourne Storm, a lucrative shift to Wayne Bennett's St George-Illawarra Dragons then a World Cup win with the Kiwis last November, topped by being named their player of the year.

Now Smith, 29, is aiming up again as he eyes another premiership with the high-flying Dragons - who host the Warriors on Sunday - and back-to-back wins over the Kangaroos in next Friday's Test in Brisbane.

He's even been mentioned by Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney as a contender to take over the captaincy from the retired Nathan Cayless.

It's a big change for the qualified scaffolder, with a love of surfing and fishing, whose career was going nowhere fast a few years ago.

Having shifted from Christchurch to Melbourne at 13, then the Gold Coast at 17, he had club stints with Runaway Bay, Tweed Heads and Brisbane Norths, then a forgettable 2002 with doomed joint-venture NRL club the Northern Eagles.

Then those old chestnuts, about hard work and surrounding yourself with good people, finally rang true for the classic rugby league late-bloomer.

Namely, three highly respected coaches; Kearney, Craig Bellamy, and now, Bennett, who lured Smith from Melbourne to Wollongong on a three-year deal and helped the Kiwis climb their Everest at Suncorp Stadium.

"It's just been about having the right people around me, pointing me in the right direction," Smith said.

"It started with (Kearney) when I was first coming through the Storm and carried on from there. I've been pretty lucky like that in my career. At the moment it's all going well."

His work ethic on and off the field is admired by many, and the big nights on the booze are a thing of the past for the married father-of-one.

"I've sacrificed a lot in my life to get to where I am, so I'll have the odd beer but I won't go stupid," he said.

"The speed the game is going, with two refs, you just can't afford to put your body through it."

The excitement is building for Smith as his third-placed Dragons - fresh from a 29-0 plucking of the Roosters - host the ninth-placed Warriors at WIN Stadium in his new home town.

There's excitement about clunking heads with some of his Kiwi mates but a certain confidence from a winning team and a winning coach.

"The Dragons have always had the talent to do something special, they just needed someone like Wayne. We've been on fire lately," he said.

"The Warriors are always tough, and a real challenge for a defence, but I'm confident we can do the job on them."

For Smith, there's little more to prove after the past 18 months, but a double over the Warriors and Kangaroos will just continue the magic carpet ride.

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