League: Smith has big shoes to fill

By Robert Lowe

Halfback Jeremy Smith knows he's got big rugby league shoes to fill when he puts on the Kiwis No 7 jersey on Sunday.

One of six new caps in the New Zealand side to face world champions Australia in Wellington, Smith has been handed the position occupied for 46 tests by the great Stacey Jones.

The South Sydney playmaker is aware of the size of the task, but remains undaunted.

"There's the legacy there with the type of person and the type of player Stacey is. He earned a lot of respect and deservedly so," he said.

"It's pretty big shoes to fill. I'm just going to go out there and try to do my best for my country and my teammates, and hopefully do everyone proud."

Jones retired from test football after last year's Tri-Nations final and Bulldog Ben Roberts took over as halfback for April's Anzac test.

Roberts will be at five-eighth on Sunday.

Huntly-born Smith was comfortable with being handed the responsibility of guiding his teammates around the park.

"I've got to be the general out there and know what everyone is doing and what-not," he said.

"That's my role. I'll hopefully go out and prove to the boys this week that I'm the man for the job."

A former Junior Kiwi, New Zealand Maori and New Zealand A representative, Smith made his National Rugby League (NRL) first-grade debut last year when he was with Parramatta.

Just weeks later he was in line for his first cap in the one-off test against Great Britain at St Helens in June, before an on-field incident ruled him out.

He pushed referee Sean Hamstead during Parramatta's loss to St George Illawarra and was banned for four matches.

Smith believed his competitive spirit gave him an edge and it wasn't something he wanted to lose.

But he admitted it had also proved his downfall at times and the answer was finding a middle ground.

"You have to be smart about it, and play within the rules and be disciplined at the same time."

Smith is one half of an historic quirk in new coach Gary Kemble's squad, being one of two Jeremy Smiths in the 17.

It will be the first time two players with the same name appear in a New Zealand test side.

The other Jeremy Smith is an uncapped Melbourne forward, who is fresh from helping the Storm win the NRL premiership.

"My main focus was on the Melbourne Storm and getting to the grand final and winning it, and this is just a bonus," the Christchurch-born second rower said.

"I'm still on a bit of buzz being picked for the Kiwis. Growing up as a kid, you always want to play for the Kiwis, so it's a dream come true."

He said how he and his namesake would be referred to within the New Zealand squad to avoid confusion had not yet been resolved.

"The boys have something in line for us. I think we'll find out soon."


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 22 Feb 2017 13:15:10 Processing Time: 653ms