Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees has extended his career by another year as he will stay on at the Arms Park until the summer of 2018.
The former Wales captain will enter his 16th season of professional rugby, having started his career at Pontypridd before joining the Celtic Warriors in 2003 and moving onto the Scarlets when the Valleys side disbanded, making 182 appearances for the Llanelli side over nine years.
Smiler, as Rees is affectionately known, also has 60 caps for the national side, winning the Grand Slam in 2009 and playing in the 2007 World Cup, as well as three British and Irish Lions test caps on the South Africa tour.
Perhaps his greatest career achievement though was defeating testicular cancer in 2013, with his Cardiff teammates offering their support via shaving their heads in aid of the Velindre cancer centre.
There has been speculation that Rees would move on from his time as a Blues player in each of the last two seasons, particularly in 2015 when he was actually released by the club before Danny Wilson came in and re-signed him, while last year there was a rumour the hooker would take the Cardiff RFC head coach job.
Now though we will see Smiler try to add to his 77 appearances amassed so far, including 25 last season, the most since arriving in the capital.
He mostly played second fiddle to Kris Dacey, meaning 16 of the appearances were restricted to coming off the replacements bench, however an imperious scrummaging ability means Rees may well find himself appearing in the starting XV more this season, with the set piece one of Cardiff’s weak points last year.
What with turning 37 in December, the hooker could well make up a front row that has a combined age of 114 alongside Gethin Jenkins and Fa’ao Filise, greater than the combined Brad Thyer, Corey Domachowski, Ethan Lewis, Kirby Myhill and Dillon Lewis.
There is no substitute for experience though, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the old stagers lining up together at some point next season, with Cardiff looking leaderless at points in 2016/17.
Matthew Rees still has plenty in the tank, and plenty to offer the likes of Dacey, Ethan and Myhill as they prepare to take over the hooking reigns. Smiler keeps on smiling!