Norman Cecil Smith
- 187Wallaby Number
Norm Smith was one of two brothers to play for New South Wales in the 1920s but the pair could hardly have been more different – Norm was a winger whose speed was well known and Tom was a lightweight prop – but both gave sterling service to the code in the difficult times in which they played. Smith was something of a surprise selection in 1922, when he leapfrogged a number of other good wingers who had been blooded in representative football, but his debut coincided with a couple of the best results in New South Wales history to that time. He replaced clubmate Larry Newman for the second match of the All Black series and was part of a Waratah side that beat the visitors by 14-8.
There was not a lot of flowing back play in this match – the home team’s points came from a converted penalty try and three penalty goals – but Smith made a good job of looking after the dangerous ‘Jockey’ Ford. New South Wales named an unchanged lineup for the series decider on the following Monday and Smith played a significant part in determining the series outcome. Late in the first spell, with the All Blacks leading 6-5, he chased after a kick from Larry Wogan, recovered it and set a passing rush in motion that led to Bill Marrott scoring. There was considerable discussion about the try, as many thought Smith had knocked on, but the score stood and, as it turned out, proved the last points in a tense match.
By winning this game New South Wales became the first team anywhere in the world to defeat the All Blacks in a series. Smith’s only appearance against the 1923 Maori team was for Metropolitan Union – John Pym, ‘Pup’ Raymond, Owen Crossman and Allen Bowers rated ahead of him this season – but he was still included in the under-strength State team that made the trip across to New Zealand. Smith played the first three matches – on the wing at Wellington, at fullback at Timaru and back on the wing for the first Test, when he scored New South Wales’ first try – but an injury suffered in this match, even if he saw the game out, ended his tour.
Smith recovered in time to take his place in two matches against the 1924 All Blacks, who had been invited to cross the Tasman for a short tour to celebrate New South Wales’ golden jubilee. The home side, to the surprise of many, won the first Test and Smith scored one of the tries, but he was replaced for the second match by Jim Foote. Smith made a replacement appearance in the final match when Owen Crossman left the field but, by the time he came on, the match was already well out of the home side’s reach. Smith was not included in the first State team to face the 1925 All Blacks, which was probably a blessing.
That side was hammered 26-3 but midweek the Second XV, including Smith, put up a much stronger showing and 13 players from that match were promoted for Saturday’s second Test. This match was tight and tense, with the only points coming from a long dropped goal by New Zealand fullback Jack Harris, and the third match was also hard-fought although the visitors got home by 11-3. Smith also played for the New South Wales XV at Newcastle and created a fine try for Ernie Reid, snapping up a dropped pass near his own line and running to halfway before sending the flying centre off on a 50-yard dash to score. Although he was injured and replaced late in that match Smith had done enough to win a place in the team to tour New Zealand, and this time he was part of a strong combination that would return home with nine wins from 11 matches.
Smith faced stiff competition for the Test spot from Crossman, Bowers and Foote – the two first-named eventually got the job – but all four wingers shared field time. Smith played in six matches, although most of these were the lesser fixtures. Play did not run his way much on tour and in the games he played the midfielders scored particularly heavily, while Bowers and Crossman got plenty of opportunities in the other matches. Still, Smith performed well without being one of the stars in a quality back division and certainly did no harm to his reputation. He scored two tries but any Test chances probably went west when he was part of a side that performed indifferently against Waikato-King Country during the week leading up to the big match.
The All Blacks, fielding what was for many years regarded as the best side ever to take the field at home, won the Test by 36-10. Smith, who stood half an inch over six feet (1.85m) and weighed 12 stone or so (76kg, which was heavier than his front-row brother) did not play against the 1926 All Blacks and had dropped out of big-time rugby when it came time to select the Waratahs for their famous 1927-28 British tour, so his career was confined to matches over a four-year span against New Zealand teams, three of which provided memorable victories.