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04 Dec

Newcastle overpowered by South Sydney in 17th successive loss

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FAREWELL: Jeremy Smith played his last home game for Newcastle.JEREMY Smith walked off Hunter Stadium for the final time with two points alongside his name.
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Just not the two points he was hoping for.

The veteran lock landed a close-range conversion in the dying minutes of Newcastle’s 34-12 loss to South Sydney –just the second goal of his 212-game NRL career.

But that was as close as he came to a fairytale farewell as the Knights’ club-record losing streak grew to 17 games.

For a player who has enjoyed so much success in his career –winning grand finals with Melbourne and St George Illawarra and a World Cup with New Zealand –to finish in such fashion must be beyond frustrating.

But he will walk away with the respect of his teammates and opponents.

As his co-captain, Trent Hodkinson, said afterwards: “Jez is a guy that you hated playing against, and now that I’ve experienced having him on my side, he’s just a great footy player …he’s probably the only old-school player left in the game.’’

Those sentiments were endorsed by Souths skipper Greg Inglis and coach Michael Maguire, both familiar with Smith after their time together at Melbourne.

“He’s one of those blokes that you know what you’ll get from him, every week,’’ Inglis said.“He won’t let you down and he’s one of those old-school type players that’s still running around in the modern game.’’

Maguire added: “I was fortunate to work with Jez down at Melbourne, quite a few years ago, and it’s a real credit to see how he’s gone throughout his career.He’s a real character. A great player and one thing Jez did, he put his body on the line every single time he played.’’

Smith joked afterward that “I rate myself as a goalkicker”, and perhaps so he should –having kicked eight goals for New Zealand in Test matches.

“We do a lot of practice at training, for coffees, and I got an easy one today,’’ he said.

“It just shaved the post actually.’’

The 36-year-old took to the field with his four children before kick-off and afterwards paid tribute to Newcastle’s supporters, 15,212 of whom turned out on Sunday.

“The fans have been great,’’ he said. “They just keep turning up for us.’’

Souths, who were playing in Newcastle for the first time since 2012, had won the previoussix games between the two clubs by a combined scoreline of 227-60.

Inglis opened the scoring withhis 12thtry in 13 games against the Knights.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Jeremy Smith and his children before kick-off.

WingerAlex Johnston scored a double, giving him a remarkable nine tries in four games against Newcastle.

A spectacular chip-and-chase try from Knights fullback Jake Mamo in the 75thminute allowed Smith to convert from almost in front.

Smith kicked one goal for Melbourne in 2008 and also landed eight goals at international level for New Zealand.

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