Bradie Smith at training on Thursday and, inset, with his work truck. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
IF blue-collar work ethic counts for anything, it appears only a matter of time before Bradie Smith nails down a top-grade position with the Knights.
After two seasons in Newcastle’s National Youth Competition team, the big back-rower from Doyles Creek near Singleton has been promoted to the NRL squad for pre-season training.
He is unlikely to have qualms about rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty, judging by his dedicated multi-tasking since leaving high school.
As well as his football commitments, the 20-year-old works five days a week as a builder, which he combines with night study at Hunter TAFE, where he has gained his Certificate III in carpentry and is completing a clerk of works course.
For his efforts, he was named NYC Trade Player of the Year, NRL Apprentice of the Year and Knights Hunter TAFE Student of The Year, the ‘‘academic trifecta for Bradie’’, according to Knights chief executive Matt Gidley.
‘‘It gets pretty difficult, but you certainly find a way to do it all,’’ Smith told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘The club has been really helpful.
‘‘All the Knights’ welfare officers really help you keep on top of it.
‘‘They make sure everything is going smoothly and you’ve got the workload in order.’’
Smith hopes to eventually enjoy a long career as a builder, but his immediate priority is to earn a living from his chosen sport.
‘‘The ultimate goal is to be a footballer, but you have to have something to fall back on,’’ he said.
‘‘What I’d like to do outside footy is be a builder. Building is something I’ve wanted to do from a young age. To do my trade while playing footy gives me another option.’’
After 43 games in under 20s, during which he scored nine tries, Smith said it was a dream come true to train with Newcastle’s NRL stars during the summer.
‘‘Definitely it’s always been a goal to play first grade,’’ he said. ‘‘Just to be training with the pre-season squad is a huge goal ticked off, and I’ll keep working towards playing a game this year.’’
At 191 centimetres, Smith has evolved from an outside back in his junior days into a strapping young forward.
‘‘I’m still looking to put a bit of weight on,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m sitting at about 105kg now, so hopefully I can add a few extra kilos over the pre-season to take the contact a bit better.’’
As for being a student of the game, he said his three awards were ‘‘not something I really expected’’ but were much appreciated.
‘‘I’m just doing it to set myself up the best I can for life after footy, and to get recognised for it is a real honour,’’ he said.
● Newcastle utility back Nathan Ross has been rewarded with an upgraded contract that will allow him to become a full-time player, after two years on a second-tier deal.
‘‘It means I can focus a lot more on my football, and I hope the extra time on the paddock is going to result in bigger and better performances,’’ Ross told the Knights’ website.
‘‘Last year I was working and training, so they were long days and it was very hard.’’
A late bloomer, Ross made his NRL debut last season at the age of 26 and scored two tries in six games.