18 Jul Brumbies Stalwart Smith Retires
It’s been a rollercoaster career for Plus500 Brumbies centre Andrew Smith but, as he calls time on more than a decade playing the game, it’s clear that the memories of the highs far outweigh those of the lows. Smith has seen and done a lot during a career that encompassed clubs in Australia, Ireland and France.
A Super Rugby Final in 2013 and a Pro12 Final in Ireland might be the closest Smith got to winning a major honour but the sheer fact that he played in both means that he has a unique place in Brumbies rugby history. And it’s that 2013 Super Rugby Final that burns brightest in the memory.
“The Super Rugby Final in 2013 [against the Chiefs in Waikato] was probably the highlight for me,” Smith recalled in an exclusive chat for brumbies.com.au. “We had a really good run through to the finals, won some amazing games away from home but unfortunately lost the final in pretty tough circumstances. We were in a position to win that game but just lost it late on, but it was a really successful year under Jake White.
“We’d played finals for the previous few years but were just breaking through and in that game, we were up with about fifteen minutes to play so to lose was really tough. Maybe the travel had caught up with us, we’d done a bunch of travelling that season and the Chiefs just overwhelmed us late in the game. It just shows how hard it is to win this competition. We had the belief we were going to win it that year and to lose that late was really disappointing.”
2013 was something of a watershed year for Smith who recalls with clarity how the Brumbies defeated the touring British & Irish Lions, the only Super Rugby team to defeat the lauded visitors on that trip, after edging a thrilling match 14-12 on a bitterly cold evening in Canberra.
“Winning against the British & Irish Lions is probably the game I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Smith remembers with a smile on his face. “It was just a freezing night in Canberra, to beat that team was incredible. We thought we had a chance that night actually. If you look at the side we picked there were a lot of guys who went on to play for the Wallabies, so we had plenty of belief that we could win the game.”
Smith has played with and against some legendary players throughout a career that began with the Brumbies as a callow youth, thrust into action in 2010 when the ACT side traveled to Auckland to take on the Blues. Many of those players have left an indelible mark on the amiable centre.
“From my first stint here, Stirling Mortlock was someone I really looked up to and was an idol of sorts so to work with him every day was special,” Smith said. “Guys like Matt Giteau and George Smith as well, obviously world class players, learning from them every day was amazing. And obviously in my second stay, Christian Lealiifano is someone who stands out. He’s obviously world class on the pitch but it’s just everything he does both on the pitch and off it, he does so much for the club.
“There wasn’t much pressure on me around my debut for the club, really I was just excited. An opportunity came up against the Blues in New Zealand and I ended up playing with a bunch of good players that I’d looked up to at the time.”
Smith’s hiatus from the Brumbies came in 2014 when he took the opportunity to further his rugby education by moving North and enjoying a spell with Munster in Ireland and Montpellier in France. Experiencing rugby in the Northern Hemisphere had long been a goal of his.
“It was something I always wanted to do, to go overseas and test myself in a new environment and experience something different and it definitely lived up to my expectations and I’ve a lot of great memories from my time there,” he said. “The Final with Munster was excellent and the support base over there get really into it, they travel wherever you go.
“The chance to go to France came about due to the connection with Jake White. There was a spot open during the World Cup and I knew Jesse Mogg, Ben Mowen and a few other guys were there. It was a great lifestyle there for sure, the rugby of course was different again but was a beautiful spot, I really enjoyed my time in France.”
But now it’s time to call it a day and Smith has no qualms about finally hanging up the boots with Brumby #125 finishing his career with 73 Super Rugby appearances and six tries to his name. It was, in fact, an easy decision for him to make.
“Mentally and physically, I’ve given a lot to Rugby and I just felt it was time,” he revealed. “Also with my family, the timing was right to move on. I’ve loved every minute of it, now it’s time for a new path, a new direction. I might take part in some touch football, some AFL 9’s maybe, Sydney will be our home, so we’ll see.”
The final word was left for the Brumbies Community, a much-loved family that Smith feels helped him become the player he is today. “We love Canberra, we’ve raised three kids here, loved our time here,” he said. “The support over the years has been amazing. So many friendly people, it’s always been great to talk to people after games, in the streets. The Brumbies community are very friendly, very knowledgeable. They’ve made my time here very special.”