As the 2014 season wraps up, the Dyldam Parramatta Eels farewell retiring forward, former centre, and one-club man, Ben Smith.
Former Eels captain Nathan Cayless saw the transformation of Smith from a kid from Caroona into a second-rower and prop more than a decade later.
“When he arrived he was so skinny, just a tall, lanky centre,” Cayless said.
“But he just worked so hard on his game. He suffered some horrific knee injuries, and to be able to last as long as he had it just comes down to hard work and commitment.”
“The amount of pain that he went through to just get himself right to play was massive. A lot of times he couldn’t train during the week and he had to do swimming or do the bike instead, but whenever he came onto the field he’d never let you down. “
“ You knew that when he was out there on the field with you, you didn’t have to worry about whether he was going to play good or bad, or let you down, because you knew that he would always do his job A great defender, he just did all those little things; he loved chasing people down, he’d always be the first one to dive on a loose ball.”
For Eels co-captain Tim Mannah, Smith’s on-field dedication and determination were reminiscent of Cayless and another great, Nathan Hindmarsh.
“Benny’s a great leader,” Mannah said.
“I’ve said to him before how much you notice when he is on the field. It reminds me a bit of Hindy (Nathan Hindmarsh) and Caylo (Nathan Cayless).”
“When they were on the field, they just had a presence about them and you felt safe when they were around. Benny brings that kind of safety to the team as well.”
“Anyone in his position, having the kind of injuries that he’s had or having to go through the hurdles that he’s gone through, there’s no way they’d be able to hang in there and come out on top like he has.”
“He’s had some pretty tough things thrown at him but he never quit.”
Fullback and co-captain Jarryd Hayne says while Smith’s professionalism never faltered, he’s also been responsible for some hilarious moments at the Blue and Gold.
“He’s one of the ultimate professionals,” Hayne said.
“He’s got a strong work ethic and he’s a very passionate person."
"We lived together for a while when we came through the Jets program, and I think it’s been a journey we will look back on in years to come and have a laugh some of the things we used to get up to.”
“He’s got a great sense of humour,” Mannah added.
“He’s got that contagious laugh and he just really enjoys making people laugh. He’s great to be around.”
“There’s definitely a lot of stories I could tell that would find very funny, but …” Mannah trails off.
When it comes to summing up Smith, Cayless does it neatly.
“He’s a great bloke,” Cayless said.
“A real character. Can be a little bit sensitive sometimes, but just a guy everyone loved being around. He had a great laugh … and the squint. Who could ever forget the squint! Squintsy as we called him, or Prince of Squince.”
“He was just one those characters that you have to have around in the sheds.”
“But again, I just keep going back to that hard work. He pretty much got told, when he was very young, that his knees were shot and he wouldn’t last too long. So to be able to last 150 games in the NRL, it’s a wonderful testament to his character, to his commitment and the amount of hard work that he put in.”