All Black great Conrad Smith discusses a few photos from his magnificent career
Conrad Smith is in the final furlong of an illustrious career. One of 20 men to have won two Rugby World Cups, the Pau and former All Black centre is set to retire at the end of this season.
Nearly 36, Smith sprung to prominence on the back of his NPC form for Wellington Lions in 2004 and went on to make 126 Super Rugby appearances for the Hurricanes. Internationally, he racked up 94 New Zealand caps and his Test win percentage of 89.89% is bettered by only two other centres in history – current All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
Before he hangs up his boots, we asked Smith to talk through some of his career highlights for a My Life in Pictures feature – you can see that in the November issue of Rugby World that hits the shops on Tuesday 3 October.
As a taster, below he discusses four other photos from his career, starting with one taken in the year of his Test debut…
WELLINGTON ALL BLACKS, 2004
“This is five of the six Wellington players chosen for the All Blacks’ 2004 European tour. Piri Weepu (top right) and myself were new, Ma’a Nonu (top left) had been with the team for the World Cup, and Rodney So’oialo (front left) and Jerry Collins were pretty established players; they were older guys that looked after us. Obviously Tana Umaga (the captain) would normally be there, I don’t know where he was that day.
“I had played five minutes as a substitute in Super Rugby in 2004 – we were up by 40 points and I don’t think I even touched the ball. But I had played two seasons of NPC and that was what I got in the All Blacks side with.
“It wasn’t completely unheard of (to make the All Blacks without playing Super Rugby), I know Jason Eaton did a similar thing, but it was rare. And also the fact I hadn’t played any age-group rugby, nowadays that’s almost unheard of.
“Timing is a wonderful thing. For that 2004 tour they picked a lot of new players. That year’s Tri-Nations was pretty disappointing by All Black standards and there were a lot of cultural changes that Graham Henry and Wayne Smith wanted to put in place, which meant reshaping the team. I happened to have a good season and the opportunity arose.”
AN UNLUCKY BREAK, 2006
“I’d just come back to Wellington after an operation on a broken leg. If you think I don’t look too happy, I didn’t realise I was having a press conference, I was a bit shocked by it! I suppose it was just sinking in that there was a long road ahead to get back on the field. And it came at a time when Tana (Umaga) had just retired, I’d been groomed to take the jersey, and it was the second game of the season (v Western Force) that the injury happened.
“I was back playing within five-and-a-half months. It was a bad break but it was clean and they fixed it with a rod as opposed to a cast, which made the comeback a lot quicker because you lose less muscle.
“Every player has injuries but if you don’t have one for ten years, you play a lot of rugby and that can be tough. I had a sabbatical (in 2013) that prolonged my time in New Zealand. Playing All Blacks and Super Rugby is a tough gig. It’s a lot of travel and when you start to think about family or having a family, it makes life pretty challenging. So the sabbatical was just about that for me – breaking up the schedule of travelling and playing.
“It’s different in Europe: you play a longer season but the travel is so much less and you’re at home for so much more time – I love that.”
NICE THROW, 2014
“This was taken at a school in Johannesburg. Normally the day after a long-haul flight the body is pretty wrecked so you don’t train, but they try to keep you awake by organising a bunch of activities, like a game of pétanque.
“I’ve learnt a lot more about pétanque in France. From what was a bit of fun, you realise how serious it can be and you learn the rules properly and see how good people can be at it. It’s huge in France, especially here in the South-West, and I’ve played a lot more of it.”
TRY TIME, 2013
“This is just something bizarre I tend to do when I score and get emotional. I never have any plans, there are no dance moves that I do – I just remember being pretty happy.
“We were playing pretty well (against Australia in Sydney) and I threw the ball like an American Football player at the roving camera that sweeps round the in-goal. I got a lot of grief for it because everyone told me they had never seen me do a try celebration like that.”
- Conrad Smith discusses other photos from his life in the November issue of Rugby World, on sale from Tuesday 3 October. Don’t miss it!