Steve Barry Smith


One of the most elegant Bulldogs to grace Memorial Oval was the very, very stylish Steve Smith. He debuted in John Bull’s Premiership winning third grade side at the tender age of 15. Bully attributes the greying of his hair to the frustrating attempts to get the youngster playing sensible cricket. Steve would inevitably get a start but then throw his dig away after 20 or 30. He dreaded the clatter of the skipper and his spikes      thundering down the grandstand at Punchbowl Oval after another dig was thrown away. Smith knew he was about to be the recipient of another blast from the frustrated skipper. Steve Sydes and Mick Stephenson were part of the planning with Bull at the helm. In desperation Bull asked Stepho to have a word to the wayward youngster. Smith was told to pick up Stepho at Punchbowl station and the pair did indeed have a chat. It was stressed on the youngster that he was harming the team by not carrying on with the job. In most innings Mick said a couple of batsmen inevitably fail and it is up to those who get a start to build a big total. That day Smith got 48 and Bull sensed the message was getting through. The thirsty thirds won the premiership with Smith a big contributor and the following season he said he thought he had learned the lesson. When asked how many he had scored he replied with a huge grin a double century and his career was on its way. With scores of 162 and 215 he forced his way into the Blues side. Mark O’Neill and Steve Smith are cousins and the former said to Steve my father played for Australia yours didn’t. Like a shot The Bankstown bloke replied —- my uncle played for Australia yours didn’t. A pink ball was trialled when Bankstown played Gordon at Memorial. Steve Smith got a duck and declared the trial a failure whilst Steve Waugh scored 136 and claimed it was a resounding success. Smith was a magnificent baseballer with great reflexes and a powerful arm. The player who extolled the virtue of his fielding most was not exactly a great supporter of Aussie cricketers. It was the great Indian batsmen Sunil Gavaskar who was very, very impressed by Smith in the field. Steve ran between wickets superbly especially with Graeme Wood who had been involved in some harem scarum running which led to diabolical run outs. Smithy was asked the secret and he said when Wood takes off so do I. As a youngster one of the umpires chuckled when Smith was batting with an ageing Stepho. The adjudicator said if the youngster goes any faster he is in danger of lapping the veteran. Steve’s involvement with the Bulldogs continued as batting coach. He ran an Indoor Cricket Centre and also found time to be a N.S.W. selector. In 1982-3 he stunned cricketers with his maiden century a whopping 243 for the Blues including 116 in the last session. The rampaging Smith plundered 30 boundaries and the cricket world was abuzz. Mike Coward in the Age had this to say about the 21 year old. “Steve Smith gets the bulk of his runs through the offside. His back cut and late cut shots were beautifully executed. What a joy it is to see a young man cutting with such elegance and precision. The way he drove through the narrow gaps at extra cover showed his power and elegance plus ideal timing. He played three Tests and 28 one dayers. In just his third fifty overs international vs N.Z. he plundered 117 from 130 balls. Weight of runs saw him selected to tour Sri Lanka. He also toured India and the West Indies before embarking on the South African rebel tour. He spent 85-86 and 86-87 in Springbok territory and amassed 1163 runs at 53.  Although Steve was related to Norm O’Neill his father Barry, who played grade cricket, had the greatest impact on his career. For Australia against the West Indies Smithy fell victim to their two legendary pacemen Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall. Not many half volleys from those two Smith asserted.