It was a trip down memory lane for Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith, and a once in a lifetime experience for 48 kids at the Waiheke Island Holiday Blast.
A Waiheke Rams junior, Smith has in recent years become a key part of the Melbourne Storm’s NRL side and a capped Kiwi international.
This week marked the first time the Auckland Rugby League has taken its school holiday programme to the island, and Smith said as soon as he found out it coincided with his visit to Waiheke, he was keen to be part of it.
“What stood out to me was the attendance, to see so many happy faces, it reminded me of when I was a junior,” Smith said.
“I loved being here at the rugby league club when I was younger, so just seeing the amount of kids with smiles on their faces, you can tell they are having a really good time.”
Smith spoke to the attendees and took part in activities with them, and believed the programme was a great way to grow rugby league.
“This is something that can help grow the sport moving forward on the island,” he said.
“I gave up my time because I really want to help rugby league grow here in New Zealand, not just on Waiheke, and I believe it starts from grassroots rugby league.”
Auckland Rugby League CEO Greg Whaiapu said it was great to see a local player giving back to his community.
“For Brandon to do this and spend his free time helping the next generation of Auckland footy players, speaks volumes about the person he is,” Whaiapu said.
“It’s always special to meet your sporting heroes, and even better when they come from the same club you are playing at.
“We are very grateful for Brandon’s time and effort – he’s left a bunch of kids with an experience they will never forget.”