Decision to stay an easy one

He's older and wiser. Stronger and fitter.

Aaron Smith’s devotion to the game knows no bounds. Ten years in the South and the enthusiasm shows no sign of wearing off.

The 32-year-old went on a rowing machine on Christmas Day and knocked out a few kilometres. He trained on New Year’s Day and he does extra training every day.

It is that attitude which led to the announcement yesterday of a further two-year deal for Smith with Manawatu, the Highlanders and the All Blacks, through to the 2023 World Cup.

Smith said it was not a hard decision to stay in New Zealand.

‘‘I feel really good in my body and mind about keeping playing rugby and I wouldn’t want to do it...
‘‘I feel really good in my body and mind about keeping playing rugby and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else but here.’’ PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
"To me it was around getting stability for the next few years.

"I feel really good in my body and mind about keeping playing rugby and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else but here. It was easy," he said.

"I was talking to my wife the other day and I said I feel better than when I was 27, 28 — just the way I look after the body, the way I eat, the way I live my life ...

"I put a lot of time into my body. I have got a good routine around recovery.

"I always try to do something when no-one else is doing it.

"I’m a bit crazy around my training these days. It is around that challenge of doing things other people do not want to do. Doing more training when others do not usually train. Just trying to chase what I can and make the most of what I have left."

He said he was trying to break up the season by training smarter.

With the unknown of what was happening overseas because of Covid-19, a decision to stay with the Highlanders was simple.

"The whole unknown about shifting your whole family and then obviously having to come home. I have already done two weeks in isolation. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

"The real reason I wanted to stay was to give back to rugby, give back to the Highlanders.

"I would not say I’m trying to teach the new guys. But if anyone asks me about my recovery and extras I can pass that on.

"I think my biggest strength as a leader in the Highlanders is just show how much I pride myself on my preparation around my recovery, extra skills and my fitness.

"The best ability is to be available to play."

He admits he felt like an old man at the Highlanders - "got a few extra greys, a son now, I’m now at the butt of those jokes" but he had no issue with it.

He married Teagan in January this year and the couple have an 18-month-old son, Luka.

"They are talking about different things than where I am in my life."

He said as a player he embraced the hard situations both mentally and physically.

"I really enjoy that stuff when you are uncomfortable. That is when you can thrive."

The World Cup in 2023 was a goal among many and he said his minutes may be managed over the next two seasons to get him to France.

"But just because I have signed through to there, is no guarantee I’m going to be there... if anything I have learnt here, is everything is earned through hard work."

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