Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Veteran skipper earns players' praise

Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith scores a winning try. Photo / Greg Bowker
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith scores a winning try. Photo / Greg Bowker

Coming in to a professional rugby team can be a nerve-racking experience for a new player.

The Hurricanes of old certainly didn't have a reputation for welcoming their rookies with open arms, but Dane Coles will always remember one kind encounter with Conrad Smith after first making the squad in 2009.

"I used to go to a lot of the Hurricanes games when I was young and I remember my first year, obviously you see a guy playing for the All Blacks and you get a little bit intimidated but he was actually the first guy that came up to me and made me feel welcome," Coles said.

"He's just a really good bastard"
Dane Coles

"All the success he's had, it's never gone to his head. He's just like a friend really, one of your best mates and he's really humble and down to earth.

"When you're that young you get home and you're pretty chuffed. I was like 'oh man, Conrad Smith spoke to me'. It was just normal stuff, but for me, I love watching rugby and for a guy to do that to you, the first guy in the team, it kind of made me feel pretty special for a couple of weeks and I probably went and told my mates about it too. So with stuff like that, he's just a normal bloke."

Coles' uncensored description of Smith, who will mark his 100th appearance for the Hurricanes against the Cheetahs at Westpac Stadium this afternoon, indicates the admiration the players have for him.

Since joining the franchise in 2004, Smith's commitment to the side has never wavered and even in the club's darkest hours he has continued to pull on the jersey.

When he re-signed with the side ahead of the 2012 campaign after a lot of his long-standing teammates had moved on, Smith said it was never up for debate whether he would stay or not, he was a Hurricanes loyalist.

The other players all spoke of Smith's level head on the field but lock Jeremy Thrush, who has played for the Hurricanes since 2008, said that could change if they were on the wrong end of the referee's whistle.

"He's pretty cool headed. The only time he probably gets upset is at referee's decisions more than anything and you can see it in his face," Thrush said. "So as a lawyer he thinks he knows what's going on and what's right and wrong. So when a ref gives a pretty harsh call you can tell that he's not very happy about it."

Hurricanes second-five Hadleigh Parkes made his debut for the franchise during the season-opening loss to the Sharks in Durban last month and said Smith was a good sounding board heading into the game.

"Just leading up to the week we had ... just a couple of quick chats," Parkes said. "Then after the game, it was just a handshake, pat on the back, 'congratulations; awesome to have you at the Hurricanes' and I was just stoked to have that from him."

That exchange sums up Smith's playing and captaincy style. There's nothing flash about it but he gets the job done and on top of his 75 test caps for the All Blacks and 43 provincial appearances for Wellington he will now be able to call himself a Hurricanes centurion.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 22 Dec 2014 21:05:13 Processing Time: 514ms