Born & bred leader
What makes Cameron Smith tick? His dad Wayne explains…
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.