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We all knew that. We just did not know on his way up meant on his way up to Wellington.
The 22-year-old Black Cap-in-the-making informed the association earlier this week he was transferring to Wellington.
He will leave the Volts and play for the Firebirds next season.
His departure will strip the province of a player many saw as a linchpin for the next decade.
It was not an easy decision for Smith. He has been bathing in opportunities in the South.
The right-armer was moving up the ranks as well. He has played three first-class fixtures for New Zealand A and got to bat up the order for Otago.
There will be more competition in Wellington. He will have to earn the respect of his new team-mates.
But Smith is certain it is the best decision he could make for his cricket career.
"It is not a reflection on Otago cricket because they’ve turned me into the cricketer I am today and have given me all these opportunities, so I’m extremely grateful for that," he said.
"But the main reasons I had for the move is I’ll get to work with the specialist bowling coach that they have. They have just signed Iain O’Brien and they’ve got Hamish Bennett there, who I’m looking forward to working with immensely.
"They’ve got about five other Black Caps there ... and they’ve just signed a specialist batting coach, so they have a lot of resources.
"I saw that as an extremely exciting opportunity."
The training facilities in Dunedin have improved, but the chance to train at the Basin Reserve and train on grass as early as September 1 was another major attraction for Smith.
"Just the fact I’ll get six more weeks on grass leading into the season, and it is just a great opportunity for me to focus on my own game in a real strong winning culture."
Smith was injured late in the summer and said he started thinking about a move then. But he admitted the departure of head coach Rob Walter was "a bit of a catalyst".
Walter is transferring to Central Districts.
"I just felt the timing was right with what is happening with our staff moving on and just the uncertainty of who we could get in.
"I felt a move into the [Wellington] environment with all their resources was the best chance for me to really push my career.
"[Walter] was amazing for my career ... and he has given me the tools I have now to take a step and get a bit out of my comfort zone."
Smith said Otago would "always be home" and he has not given up on representing his beloved North Otago in the Hawke Cup again at some stage.
Smith was closing in on 1000 runs and 200 first-class wickets for Otago. A quick look at his career first-class averages — 37.84 with the ball and 28.46 with the bat — is a little misleading, though. He made his debut when he was 17, so there have been some growing pains.
But in three games for New Zealand A he has picked up nine wickets at 18.33 and scored 188 runs at 47.
Otago Cricket Association performance manager Simon Forde has a tough job to replace him.
“We are devastated to lose Nathan from our playing group," he said.
"He is a quality young man and has a big future and we saw him as a significant leader in our environment for years to come. But that’s not to be.
"Quality local players and those from around the country will see an obvious opportunity now at Otago and we look forward to working through that process”.