Born & bred leader

What makes Cameron Smith tick? His dad Wayne ex­plains…

Rugby League Week - - News - BY JOEL GOULD

PUNTING ON CAMERON Smith to ex­cel on the field is a safer bet than Black Caviar in her prime. But what drives the Roos skip­per to main­tain that level of ex­cel­lence year in, year out?

RLW spoke to his fa­ther, for­mer Easts Tigers hooker Wayne Smith, to find out – and he starts by cast­ing his mind back to an in­ci­dent 23 years ago.

“Ever since he was a young fella of 10, he’s hated to think he’d let any­one down,” Wayne re­mem­bers.

“I re­mem­ber this time he was be­ing cheeky and I said ‘I’m re­ally dis­ap­pointed in you’. That devastated him to the point where I had to con­sole him later.

“It was just the thought that he’d let some­one down which up­set him. That’s what drives him today. Whether it be Mel­bourne, Queens­land or Aus­tralia, it’s the fear that his team­mate will say ‘you didn’t put in today’.

“Around that same age of 10 he was cry­ing af­ter he’d lost a game, and he’d never done that be­fore. “I said to him, ‘It’s OK to lose’. He said, ‘It’s not about los­ing, but some of those kids on my team weren’t try­ing’. He just didn’t get that some­one wouldn’t try.”

Cameron’s steely de­ter­mi­na­tion re­vealed it­self in other ways, too.

“He wasn’t se­lected for the Queens­land un­der-17s team,” re­calls Smith.

“Cam was ab­so­lutely shat­tered, but it made him more sin­gle-minded . . . When he played his first Ori­gin game in 2003 I said to him, ‘Miss­ing out on that Queens­land un­der-17s team looks pretty in­signif­i­cant now, eh’.

“You know what he said to me? He said ‘I still should have made that team’. It stuck with him, be­cause any ad­ver­sity he faces like that, it drives him.”

Matt Geyer once said that if you could plot ev­ery move Smith made on the field, they’d be the right ones. Wayne sheds light on why that is.

“I sup­port the old adage that ‘you can’t put in what God took out’,” he says. “On the footy field some guys see noth­ing, some guys see some things and there is the odd one that sees ev­ery­thing. Cam’s one of the lucky ones!

“But I would put his vi­sion down to when he was a kid and I was coach­ing 15 and 16-year-olds and Cam was play­ing un­der-sev­ens. He’d fin­ish his train­ing and come over and jump in and do the drills we were do­ing.

“Cam was al­ways on the bench with me and in the dress­ing sheds so he was ex­posed to the nu­ances of footy from a young age and took all that in. He was hear­ing all the ter­mi­nolo­gies and ex­pla­na­tions that you would talk to a 16-year-old about, but not usu­ally a seven-year-old.”

Wayne was a hooker for Easts Tigers in Bris­bane when John Lang was the club’s top rake. But due to the lim­i­ta­tions on what No.9s could do at the time, he steered his son away from the job.

“I said ‘No. You are not play­ing hooker’,” Wayne says. “But that was more be­cause of the fact that back in those days all they did was dish the ball off. So he played five-eighth for four or five years.

“When he was 15 a school­teacher said to him, ‘You should have a go at hooker be­cause there aren’t many run­ning around and I reckon you’ll make Queens­land School­boys’.”

He did – and the rest is his­tory.

THAT’S MY BOY! Wayne Smith (pic­tured, with Cameron) has a unique per­spec­tive on what has driven his son to 45 Test caps and counting.

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