How Brandon Smith rose from his sickbed to inspire Roosters win over Souths


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Brandon Smith had a rocky start to his career with the Roosters. He cut one of former Melbourne teammate Felise Kaufusi’s hits of the year in the disheartening first-round loss to the Dolphins, causing significant rib pain, and although he returned play in the second round against the Warriors, he left early with a muscle complaint in his back.

The Kiwi hooker was a major doubt for the biggest game of his fledgling Chooks career, with muscle issues notoriously harder to fix than impact injuries.

Still, he rose from his sickbed to inspire the team to a 20-18 win over Souths: they were trailing 10-0 when he and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves came on, with the Cheese producing his first Tricolors try to start the return.

“If it wasn’t for the Bunnies I probably wouldn’t have played, it’s a game I wanted to be in,” the hooker said.

“I took a record amount of anti-inflammatories to keep me there, thank God for Naprosyn. I did everything I could to get out and we knew we had a week off and the physio said it would hurt but I couldn’t do any more damage.He gave me the all clear to go through the pain for a bit.

“The injury in my second game was probably related to this second incident. Damn Felise, I hate him. I sat cheekily with him for seven years of my career and he finally got a payback.

“It had been quite a disappointing start to my career at the Roosters but today was a big step for me, just finishing a game. Body feels good, back is still a bit sore, but just go through a game and get that confidence – I’m still building with this team, I still have a lot of improvements to make.

Smith knew the match, fresh from the Seven Sins match last September, would be fiery and was put in his place earlier in the week by Trent Robinson regarding the seriousness of the rivalry.

“It was almost in comparison to a grand final,” Smith said. “I’ve only been in two but the energy and the buildup of it all – it wasn’t too much of a Robbo buildup – but it was great.

“I don’t really read the paper too often to be honest, so I really didn’t see anything during the week, but it’s kind of an unwritten thing, an unsaid thing.

“I came into the club and everyone is just a little more focused than usual, a little more anxious than usual. Robbo yelled at me at the start of the week so it must be a game of the Rabbitohs It’s great that we got the win, we were down 10-0 when I came on and we never lost confidence.

Smith said he knew he and Jared could be a game-changer from the bench, but was surprised like everyone else when JWH stepped in as peacemaker as things inevitably got savory late in the second half .

“He changed the whole offense,” Cheese said of his teammate. “He said ‘I go through these guys’ and everyone jumped on it. Without Jared today we wouldn’t have won the game.

“I’ve had the privilege of staying with Jazza on every tour we’ve done, so I know what he’s talking about and I know what he brings.

“But this game here was something new, his mentality towards controlled aggression, the way he spoke to the team on the pitch when the scuffles were going on and how he stayed calm – I was quite proud of him, I know it’s something he’s been working on.

“We don’t want Jared playing a week on and three weeks off, we want him all season long and I thought he took a big step towards that controlled aggression without being soft.

“In that fight he grabbed a few of the boys and said ‘it’s okay, it’s okay, keep calm’ and he was telling us to control our emotions.

“He talked about discipline at the start of the game and I said ‘are those words coming out of your mouth?’ Outstanding! He didn’t look too old there, he looks much younger than the other early rowers.

“I made a career of sitting on the bench and coming on when everyone was tired, so that was nothing new for me, I literally made a career out of it at the Storm.

“I arrived and you saw when I arrived there were a lot of tired bodies and I was rewarded for all the work that Jake Turpin did, if you look at the first half all they did was tackle all the time. It’s not something I want to get used to, I wanted to be a starting number nine but the coach gives you a role that you have to play.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Smith was thrilled to cross the line for the first time, so it was understandable that his trademark would continue early.

“That 60-meter runaway? joked the Kiwi. “Where did I get six tackles? No, it was good, when I arrived everyone was a little more tired, we did a bit of marker video throughout the week, I’m just lucky it all went well .

“If Sam Walker hadn’t crossed the line, Lachlan Ilias wouldn’t have fallen for the model, so I have to thank him for that. Or was it Luke Keary? I can’t remember, I was too busy feel the wind in my hair, too busy flying at Usain Bolt speed.

“I was scared of Latrell so at the end of the try I really got the ball in with both hands, I saw Latrell had a big trysaver last week so I wasn’t letting him take that one from me .”

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