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Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith.

Brandon Smith has earned the nickname "Bulldog" because of his energy and aggression but the New Zealand hooker was in tears before and after his Test debut on Saturday night as his autistic cousin led a haka by family and friends at full-time.

New Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, whose great grandfather Puti Tipene (Steve) Watene led the Kiwis to a 16-15 win over Australia in Auckland in 1937, was also honoured with a spontaneous haka after the match from the more than 100 friends and family members at Mt Smart Stadium.

Smith, who has been accustomed to short stints off the bench for Melbourne as he bides his time behind captain Cameron Smith, was one of the stars of the Kiwis' 26-24 defeat of Australia at Mt Smart Stadium and he showed what the black-and-white jersey meant to him as he shed tears during the New Zealand anthem.

He was again in tears at full-time after running over to a section of the ground where dozens of friends and family members, who had travelled to Auckland by boat from Waiheke Island, were sitting.

"I went to see a lot of my friends and family after the game," Smith told reporters. "They were on the sidelines and I was blessed to get a haka and my autistic cousin Coen led it. That was another emotional moment for me. To receive that was really humbling."

Match Highlights: Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos, 2018

Despite receiving limited time in his 21 matches for the Storm this season, mostly at lock, Smith managed to get through 31 tackles in his Test debut and forced his way over for a try which gave an insight into why teammates at the Storm and Kiwis have nicknamed him "Bulldog".

It was an impressive debut for the 22-year-old, who had 'Rams' - the name of his junior club - written on strapping tape on his wrist and erupted in tears during the New Zealand anthem.

"The camera came along and I was balling my eyes out. I was pretty emotional," Smith said. "I don't think I have ever been through something like that in my life.

"I saw my sister in the crowd and it was a pretty unreal experience. I don't think anything could top it so far. It was definitely the proudest moment of my life, and I think my Dad's life as well."

While some members of the Kiwis team had never won a Test against Australia, Smith was undaunted by the task and appears the likely successor for Issac Luke at hooker.

Bromwich lauds Brandon Smith

"He is little firecracker, he goes hard," halfback Shaun Johnson said. "They call him the Bulldog and you can see why. He just hooks in and definitely gives the people around him a lot of energy."

Smith's roommate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves said: "He has got a big heart and plenty of energy. For him to start at No.9 for the Kiwis was obviously a pretty big challenge and he done well. He done his island very proud and his family proud also."

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.