On Friday night Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith got the result he thoroughly deserved in his 50th Test for Australia, tasting victory as he became just the second player in history to achieve that milestone in green and gold.
Individually he was typically brilliant in the 30-12 defeat of the Kiwis, showing intelligence and skill in controlling most aspects of the encounter from the bottom of the play the ball, with 39 tackles to go with it.
But he also served as the chief inspiration for his 16 teammates who took the field with him at Canberra’s GIO Stadium, and post-match Smith acknowledged that his troops had made honouring his achievement a key motivator.
“I certainly felt that and I sort of knew starting [Thursday night] in that [50th Test jersey] presentation that they wanted to make tonight special for me,” Smith said.
“But that’s what our team is about… I am very humbled by what everyone has done for me.
“To make it as special as it has been, and obviously the boys and the effort they put in tonight to get that result was just icing on the cake.”
Congrats to the boys for a great victory nd @camsmith9 on an unreal milestone of 50 test matches its an honour to play alongside you brother
— Josh Dugan (@Josh_Dugan) May 5, 2017
Humble and unassuming by nature, even Smith couldn’t shrug off the emotion surrounding his 50th Test cap.
The Melbourne Storm and Queensland Maroons stalwart was presented with his jersey the night before the match by his former skipper Darren Lockyer, the only other player to have achieved a half century of appearances for Australia, and one of Smith’s heroes growing up.
— willy g (@willgotsis) May 5, 2017
“I’ll be honest, it was [emotional], I started by thanking him [Lockyer] and yeah it got me,” Smith said.
“When I was a kid I admired what he did on the footy field, I admired who he was as a person.
“I just thought I was very, very lucky to play alongside him and for him to give me my 50th Kangaroos jersey was just a special moment, to have my wife and my three children and my mum and dad there as well to see that, that was a really nice moment for myself.
“It probably won’t sort of sink in until I call time on my rep career. The best way to describe it is just that I am very grateful to be in this position right now to play 50 games.”
— Australian Kangaroos (@Kangaroos) May 5, 2017
Coach Mal Meninga, who picked up his seventh win in as many games as the Kangaroos’ coach, paused to pay tribute to Smith, who he has coached at representative level for 12 seasons.
“What a fantastic person, player [and] effort to get 50 games,” Meninga said
“He led the side extremely well again tonight, they played for him I thought, I think that is one of the reasons the team went really well.”
On Friday night Smith also climbed equal with the great Clive Churchill in second place on the list of most matches as captain of the Kangaroos with 27, behind Lockyer on 38.