Brandon Smith makes debut for Melbourne Storm
The absence of Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith proved a boon for one Kiwi league debutant on Friday.
Brandon Smith played a part in the Storm's 40-12 demolition of the Newcastle Knights at Melbourne's AAMI Park as he made his first grade NRL debut.
Smith, 21, joined the game in the second half and showed his powers when he forced his way to the line for a try in the 62nd minute.
After the match Smith said the experience was something he will never forget.
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"To be honest, I really can't explain how it felt to score that try - it was just a huge lust of emotions.
"In my head there was so many childhood flashbacks and memories of the hard times I had gone through.
"This one moment made all the hard work, all the training, everything, worth it. I was just happy, so happy," Smith said.
The youngster said the physicality of the match was similar to his previous games but the speed was much faster.
"And the way Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk organised the game was just on another level."
Smith is officially Storm player number 182 and his 35-minute appearance is another highlight in an already outstanding year.
He has starred in the Queensland Cup this season and was picked for the extended Kiwis squad for the recent Anzac Test against Australia.
Smith signed a three year contract with the Storm in June 2016.
With Cameron Smith expected to retire in 2018, when he will be 35, the Storm is grooming the younger Smith to take over the superstar's throne.
Smith grew up on Waiheke Island, and played for the Waiheke under six side at the age of three.
His parents found out about their son's debut on Thursday night and flew to Melbourne on Friday morning to support the rising star.
"We just have so much pride," dad Shane Smith said.
"Cameron Smith has been Brandon's idol since he was a child. This is a fairytale that could not have been scripted any better."
After last night's performance, it is confirmed that Smith will play for the Storm on June 17 against the North Queensland Cowboys - Smith's former team.
Smith said his ultimate dream is to play for New Zealand's national rugby league team - the Kiwis.
"There is no higher pinnacle than playing for your country."