By Adam Freier As a schoolboy earmarked for greatness, I sat down after a carnival in 1997 having been picked for the previous Australian schoolboys Test versus England. ”I must be a shoo-in to be selected again after starting for the NSW schoolboy side,” I thought. No, I didn’t lack confidence. As it is today in Australian schoolboys rugby, you would select a starting XV, followed by an A team, then seven reserves or shadow players, also known as the Reggies. As the names were read out, the usual stars drew applause from the parents, teachers and other students in the room. Phil Waugh, Craig Wing, Ryan Cross, David Lyons - all standout performers, all straight in to the Australian team. But no Freier. ”Surely if the Queensland hooker is starting then I would be the next in line; after all, NSW did win the carnival,” I reassured myself. Then the A team names boomed out. Again, no Freier. What a joke. ”It’s political” and ”You never played in a GPS school, mate” - all the excuses in the world were streaming through my young mind. Now that reality had set in I didn’t want to even play any more. I was on the verge of a dummy spit. I was ready to storm out of the room yelling ”No way am I being a reserve for the As - never!” So of course, as if God was punishing me for my potential tantrum, I was named third-choice hooker. That’s first to third and by no means making the All Blacks schoolboys Test in Brisbane. I thought my rugby life was over. At the end of proceedings, a chubby, funny-looking kid who had just made the shadow squad with me came over. He was oblivious to what was on my mind. He had no idea of the walls of insecurity that were falling in around me and how I was thinking I’d never realise my dream of playing for the Wallabies. ”Congratulations man,” the red-headed reserve for the NSW second XV said to me. He was clearly happy with his selection. ”Yeah mate, whatever! I am Reggie, thanks,” I replied, dryly. He smiled and walked away. Who was this kid anyway and why was he so happy? And Cromer High? I had never heard of it. How is he even in this team? Apparently he didn’t even play rugby; he played league. A few days on, camp starts for Australia A. Naturally we, the Reggies, become second fiddle. We hold bags, we carry drinks and we are told we won’t be getting game time unless there are injuries. I feel like I may retire at 17. ”How’s it going Reggie man?” says my new funny little mate from the schoolboy carnival. And the Reggie business doesn’t stop. All camp this kid keeps calling me Reggie. What’s his problem? ”Reggie pass it. Your ball Reggie. How about this Reggie?” It was getting to me. Why was he rubbing it in that I was a reserves player? Finally I took him aside. I had to say it. ”Mate, my name is Adam!” I said. ”Oh sorry man, I thought you said your name was Reggie,” he replied. From then on my nickname was Reggie. My new comrade, the ever-positive curly-haired kid, was quickly becoming my newest mate and inspiration. His name was George Smith. Rugby was just a game, and a game to always enjoy. And we did and we both made the Australian schoolboys Test versus New Zeala few days later. What I learnt from George was to be yourself; to not let the game rule you and determine your happiness. He showed me that back then as a Reggie and continues to show me, and perhaps many others, today. Having never been brought up with tweed jackets or an academic scholarship, George had dreadlocks for a while. He did it his way. From Australia A schoolboys teammate to Wallaby great mate - I am honoured to be counted as his friend. George will now look to conquer another land, France, which I imagine he will do with ease. I don’t think George will ever get the ovation he deserves. You won’t see him rolling around a football ground in a convertible waving to the many fans to whom he gave so much pleasure. But he does walk away knowing that no forward has done what he has done - play 110 Tests and captain his country. The measure of his greatness is not in the numbers but in the ones he held at bay, just like England’s Michael Lipman, Queensland’s David Croft and Wallabies great Phil Waugh. All these players are freaks of their eras. As we focus on the future, we should never forget the past. George Smith has been one of the greatest players to ever put on a gold jersey. Many would argue he’s the greatest. He valued every opportunity he had in Australian rugby, big or small. Firsts or Reggies. And that outlook has inspired me. While some in the game are changed by their success, George has always been the same man. He is the best openside flanker Australia has seen but remains unaffected. Every young Reggie coming through should look to George Smith to see how to handle themselves on and off the field. The lesson George taught me was to cherish every opportunity that comes your way. Who knows where it will take you? There’ll be no luxury convertibles driving him around Suncorp Stadium and no standing ovation for this father of three. His favourite saying in camp was no Shakespearean speech or long-winded roar of emotion; it was simply, ”Enjoyment!” From Marlin to Marvel, he will leave as he started, without even a whisper. At least I can try to give him a little of the send-off he deserves.