Game in good heart, former president says

Des Smith will still be watching the oval ball. But he will no longer be wearing the presidential chains.

The lifelong lover of the game stood down as the Otago Rugby Football Union’s president at the union’s special general meeting last night when he was given life membership of the Otago union.

He also donated his winner’s medal from the 1998 Otago title win in the national provincial championships to the Otago union and paid tribute to his wife, Raylene.

Smith (75) first became president in 2016 for what a two-year term. But after two years he was asked to do another two years and, although somewhat reluctant, he kept doing the job.

In late March, he was set to stand down after four years but Covid-19 got in the way and the union’s annual meeting was delayed so he stayed on.Smith said it was a role he had really enjoyed.

"It has been great getting out and about. Got round the clubs and the schools and seen so many good people. People who I haven’t seen for a while and new people who I haven’t met before," he said.

"The game is in good heart. You go out to the rural area and the clubrooms are still the focus for the community, something which keeps the community together.

"We were in Cromwell in the weekend, where the two teams were playing against each other and you couldn’t move in the clubrooms afterwards.

"In town, some clubs are doing well, some are holding their own, and some are struggling. But everyone is trying. No-one is sitting on their hands. There is a fine line between being a successful club and one that is struggling. You can’t afford to relax for a year."

Smith said he tried to get round all 33 clubs in the province every year.

"You are talking a big area. From Wakatipu down to Clinton. So there is a lot of travelling."

Smith said the highlight was heading to Hamilton at the end of the 2018 season and watching Otago beat Waikato to win the Ranfurly Shield.

"We went on a road trip, meeting up at Auckland Airport. A lot of good people involved and then we went out and won. They [Waikato] didn’t expect us to win — you could see that in the way they treated us. The way they acted when we ran on.

"I was quite emotional at the end as I had been involved in a lot of teams as a manager which had come close to winning the shield."

Smith would continue to be close to the game as he helped out at the Kaikorai club and also watched his grandchildren play.

Smith has been replaced as president by Roy Daniels, of the Southern club.


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