Waiheke Island’s first NRL champion has just returned home to celebrate.
From the Waiheke Rams rugby league club to NRL Premiership winner and one of the game's great characters, Brandon Smith’s journey has been a colourful one both on and off the field.
“I got the ring and uh, it's for sale,” he jokingly said moments after this year's final.
“I need to pay for all the beers I'm about to sink!”
Asked if the Melbourne Storm had told him to tone down his cheeky answers and bubbly personality, Smith’s response was everything supporters of the cult hero nicknamed “The Cheese” have come to love about him.
“I don't think they have the right to do that after I've just won a grand final.”
Smith’s epic grand final celebrations – a recording of him with the Provan-Summons Trophy in his lap with a beer in one hand and showing off his championship ring with the other – went viral, shared by NBA stars and All Blacks who have all become fans of the man also known as Champ Cheese now.
“I'm talking to Aaron Smith and stuff like that and now I’m just waiting for Richie McCaw to message me!”
It's a huge buzz for the 24-year-old, who is the only NRL player to be born and bred on Auckland's Waiheke Island.
He started playing for the Rams at age three and has done everything at this club from selling raffle tickets to cleaning and working behind the bar.
“It's always what I wanted to do - everything up here is exactly what I wanted to do and I dreamed to do and now that it's done, I just hope that it can keep on going.”
So does Waiheke Island's other major rugby league figure, Sir Peter “the Mad Butcher” Leitch.
“He’s the man who put Waiheke on the map in the NRL,” Sir Peter told 1 NEWS.
Sir Peter added he knows all too well the sacrifices the Smith family made to see their boy get to where he is today.
“[He] never forgets the support [of his] mother and father, every interview I've seen [him] do, [he] brings it up - and that's a credit to [him].
“[He’s] a little bit like me, to be fair; what you see is what you get.”
This offseason Smith faces the tough decision of whether or not to stay in Melbourne, where the great Cameron Smith is currently ahead of him in the pecking order.
While on the field the 37-year-old future Immortal shows no signs of slowing, Smith joked there’s hints if you look close enough – like this year's trophy presentation.
“When he first picked it up his arms were, like, shaking and we had to help him,” Smith said.
“You can see in his face he's struggling. He's not as happy as he should be!”
Whatever the next step brings, followers of Cheese know he won’t be too fazed.