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Podcast: Inside Clay’s final weeks

Troy Daniel  July 12, 2018 6:00 AM

Clay Tells His Teammates Clay Smith spoke to his teammates to announce that he was hanging up the boots.

Clay Smith had one last roll of the dice in him.

All he had to do was get through one more training session and he would have been cleared to play.  His right knee had been troubling him since the pre-season and he hadn’t seen a minute of action because of it. 

But here was his final chance, and if he didn’t make it through then a decision that had been stalking him for months was inevitable.

Speaking to the Freedom in a Cage podcast on Tuesday, Smith opened up on the rollercoaster that would prove to be the final weeks of a decorated, albeit short, career.

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“It hadn't been great for a while but I got a little bit of hope a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “They said I was a chance to play the following week if I had of got through the Saturday session, which was a bigger one, and passed the test.

“That was probably the last chance where I was like, 'let's see how we go'. On the Saturday I got through but it wasn't convincing,”

What came next was strength test at a clinic in East Melbourne and then the anxious wait on the results. It was a long 72 hours.  

“I had the test on the Monday, did a Cybex, which is a strength test and when I got the results back, my heart sank,” he recalled.

“That was the dagger.  The left leg was probably four times as strong as the right.”

And just like that, a career filled with such promise, much of it achieved in a glorious four-week run in 2016 it should be said, was over.

There was a final training run last Thursday and then a private moment with skipper, and close mate Easton Wood, before making it official in a talk with his coach.  He told his teammates on Monday morning.  

“I came off the track Thursday, pretty emotional, pretty upset just purely because I sort of knew that was probably the last session I was going to do, he said.  Woody was with me, he come and sat in the locker room.

“I had a meeting with Bevo, Mapes (Chris Maple) and Pris (Brent Prismal) on the Friday and it was pretty teary, but yesterday (Monday)  I held it together pretty well but it was pretty tough standing in front of all the players and all the staff and saying that was it.”

But while there is an undeniable sadness, there’s also excitement in what life now holds for him and his new wife, Sarah.

“Life goes on,” he said with a smile.

“I’m actually looking forward to moving on to something else, seeing what else life holds and starting a family in the next couple of years, hopefully.”