At just 22 years old Brandon Smith is about to realise a dream he set out to achieve in primary school – taking on the Kangaroos in a Kiwis jersey.
Yesterday Kiwis coach Michael Maguire confirmed the Melbourne Storm rookie of the year will make his Test debut, starting in Saturday’s clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
It’s been a remarkable journey to the Test arena for the hooker who is believed to be the first Kiwis player born on Auckland’s Waiheke Island. He was also a Kiwis squad member last year but did not take the field.
His parents still live on the Waiheke Island where they run a cleaning business that paid for hundreds of trips to Auckland so Brandon could chase his rugby league dream.
Having started with the Waiheke Rams, there were no teams to play for on the island as he got older. He then joined Richmond and then Bay Roskill in Auckland.
That meant catching the ferry alone and then a train or taxi to get to trainings and games. He says he would sometimes get home at 10pm on a school night.
His older brother Dylan was playing for the North Queensland Cowboys under-20’s when Brandon went to visit as a 14-year-old. The trip would be the start of a stellar career that saw him represent Queensland before pledging his allegiance to New Zealand with the Junior Kiwis team.
This year Brandon played his first grand final, coming off the bench in the Storm’s loss to the Sydney Roosters. He played the year behind future league immortal Cameron Smith, who has been grooming Brandon to one day replace him as the Melbourne Storm’s premier hooker.