Smith hyped for final appearance at Forsyth Barr Stadium

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It's the game that matters more than anything else to him. Everything surrounding his departure is peripheral to succeeding.

Smith will run onto Forsyth Barr Stadium with many memories since his 2012 debut while feeling he owes the Highlanders and Dunedin a lot. Winning on Friday would go a long way to making his last appearance both memorable and rewarding.

"My sole focus is to get my body right and get ourselves to a position on Friday night that we can give the Reds absolutely everything. We've put ourselves in this position this year, but we're still a mathematical chance. The fates are in our own hands, which is exciting, and as a player, you play for games like that.

"They don't get much bigger than that this weekend. We've got a lot to play for; our season is on the line.

"A lot of it, at this time of the year is all about attitude, and doing things together. That's our biggest strength as a team, when we do well, we combine forwards and backs and stick to our plans and we look pretty good."

Having played with Reds coach Brad Thorn, Smith said he knew what type of man he was.

"I've played the Reds since he's been the coach and they're a very physical team. The conditions here in the stadium will suit them being able to move the ball but I'm excited about the week we have."

He said he had been through a topsy-turvy year on and off the field and had still to find his best form and consistency with his play. But with the challenge to take a playoff berth, it was a special year.


Smith said his career had been blessed. His body had held up; injuries were few and far between. He had the benefit of luck in choosing Dunedin and the Highlanders, but a lot of hard work had also been done.

His mindset had always been based on improvement and finding ways to get better, and that process continued.

Yet, there was regret that his father, who died in April, would not fulfil his wish to spend the last two weeks of the home season in Dunedin to spend time with his grandchildren while also watching Smith's last two games.

Since starting in the professional game, Smith said there had been changes and more concentration on recovery and training habits.

"The seasons are long, the game is way faster, way more physical."

The Highlanders were reaping the benefits of their stadium, their academy was producing players, and they were starting to attract talented players.

He said he liked working with the schools and trying to bring future Highlanders through, and seeing the talent coming through King's High School, Otago Boys' High School, John McGlashan College, and Southland Boys' High School was satisfying.

He felt he had shown it was possible to compete for an All Blacks' place from the south, which was necessary for younger players to observe.

But, after all the career highlights, the demanding games, and the good performances, Smith said the most satisfying moments were the feelings in the dressing room in the hour after a hard-earned win on the back of a week's preparation.

"People singing our team song, having a few beers. The hour after a game, if you have won, is special. That changing room has a lot of memories for us, a lot of memories for me as a player. It's some of the best times."

Highlanders v Reds: Friday 26 May, 7.05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium. TICKETS.


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