Fresh from his NRL grand final win, Melbourne Storm hooker Brandon Smith is quarantining in Auckland as he counts down to his return home to Waiheke.
He comes back with the diamond-encrusted premiership ring, which he famously joked he planned to sell to fund his celebration beers in a post-match interview.
Affectionately nicknamed “The Cheese”, Brandon has developed a cult status for his play on and off field; picking up an extra 60,000 followers on social media following his hilarious TV9 interview after the 26-20 grand final victory over Penrith Panthers. The interview went viral and has led to a surge of interest in the Waiheke-raised sportsman to the extent that even NBL players from the LA Lakers are following him now.
“It was pretty good, I mean I played pretty s––– tonight but I got the ring,” Brandon told Nine’s Brad Fittler after the match. “It’s for sale, I need to pay for all the beers I’m about to drink.”
Although he was quick to add a nice homespun reference to his Waiheke roots.
“I can’t wait to take this home to my Mum and Dad, they sacrificed to put me in this position I’m in, so this is definitely for them.”
Speaking from his quarantine hotel, Brandon told Gulf News quarantine wasn’t so different from life back in Australia – especially during the Covid-ravaged 2020 NRL season.
“The whole team got shifted from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast, we have been in lockdown for 130 days,” he said.
“We have been in a bubble, it’s been a surreal year for me, I haven’t been able to go into the public so when we finished the season, just seeing people in public felt a little awkward, especially after spending all that time with the same 50 people.”
Luckily, he has Waiheke girlfriend Savannah Syred by his side to keep him company during his personal lockdown.
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “I’ve got my Playstation and you are allowed to go downstairs. There’s a cafe, it’s all fenced off, but you can get coffee.” • Liza Hamilton
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