George Smith: The Biography
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George Smith is one of the greatest players Australian rugby has ever produced, and certainly one of the all-time best, open-side flankers in the world arena. After becoming the fourth Wallaby and the 10th in the history of the game worldwide to reach a century of Tests, Smith went on to earn 110 Test caps for Australia. Throughout his career he bedazzled crowds—and more importantly, the opposition—with the tactical brilliance, technique, and physicality in his game. A relentless and supremely skillful terrier, he was spectacularly targeted by opponents as the player they had to close down but through all such storms Smith responded heroically. His glorious career included numerous best and fairest player awards in both Test and Super rugby where he played his entire career with the Canberra-based Brumbies. He also played in two World Cups, in 2003 and 2007, and starred in numerous Test wins in the Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations series, as well as in the Wallabies' stunning series victory over the British and Irish Lions when they toured to Australia in 2001. He became the 75th Wallabies captain, leading Australia for the first time in the 2007 World Cup against Canada in Bordeaux and on a number of occasions afterwards. But for Smith, an errant youth who'd been seduced by a bad crowd on Sydney's northern beaches, life could have turned out disastrously, barely before it started. He was raised in a Tongan family as one of nine siblings and after his expulsion from Balgowlah Boys High School it was this Tongan heritage, in the end, which proved to be his salvation. The dramatic road he's followed since, throughout a stellar amateur and professional rugby career, has been littered with pot holes. Some he fell into. Others he avoided. But, as in rugby, in life it's how one responds that really counts.
Legion, Springfield Books, West Yorkshire, UK, 1993. Tales from the Toolbox, with Scott Par, Velo Press, Colorado, USA, 1997. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ... Oui, Oui, Oui—Australian Cyclists in 100 Years of the Tour de France, Random House, Sydney, 2003 The Flying Grocer—The Remarkable Story of Keith Bennett DFC, His Crew and a Dutch Girl’s Letter That Changed Their War, Random House, Sydney, 2007. What A Ride—From Phil Anderson to Cadel Evans: An Aussie Pursuit of the Tour de
demeanour: “He was very calm, laid back and relaxed.” As their relationship developed, Pilon, one of five siblings, said she was also at ease with his closeness to his family. “You could see he spent a lot of time with them. They definitely looked out for each other.” However, as smitten as George was with Pilon in those early days, when a lot of their time was spent partying and mixing with friends, George maintained his focus on rugby. That focus didn’t stop Pilon from continuing to visit
attending Australian print journalist—Peter Jenkins, then of the Australian—after the game, part of the fallout from the Brumbies “taxi incident” in South Africa earlier that year. George had not forgotten the pledge he made then. At that time, rugby journalists were allowed to enter the change room after a game. And when Jenkins did so, and naturally sought out George for an interview, he was refused: “It caused a bit of a ruckus with team management.” George was taken aback by his
invading mass of supporters was felt. “Running on to the Gabba, the first thing that hit you was the amount of red in the stands. You felt like you were at an away stadium, in their backyard, because it was so polluted with red everywhere. We knew we had the support of our fans, but we were at a disadvantage from the start.” The British and Irish Lions seized the occasion. The Wallabies committed error after error in a performance that demonstrated they had underestimated the passion and
good. He wouldn’t be the first in his family to do so. In 2005, during his days at the Roosters, his brother Tyrone played for the island kingdom in a rugby league Test against Samoa in Sydney, and then again in 2008 in rugby union in an international against a World XV to celebrate the coronation of the new King of Tonga, George Tupou V. Until he went to Tupou, most of what George had understood of his Tongan heritage came from what he had absorbed from the teachings of his mother.