The hard work of former All Black and All Blacks coach Wayne Smith CNZM is being acknowledged by the University of Waikato with a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Mr Smith graduated from the University of Waikato in 1979 with a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours. He played club rugby for Putaruru, but unable to secure a place in Waikato’s starting 15, the first five-eight moved to Canterbury to play provincial rugby.
He was selected for the All Blacks in 1980 and played 35 games for the national side over five years, then moved into management and coaching, in what appeared to be a seamless shift. He started his first-class coaching with the Crusaders in 1997-1999 winning two Super 12 titles in 1998 and 1999.
Mr Smith was called “the professor” by those who had worked with him and played under him, knowing him as skilled tactician with a solid work ethic, with an outstanding command of defence and counter attack. He has been an important mentor to many players including Sonny Bill Williams.
When Mr Smith joined Graham Henry’s coaching team in 2004, the pair worked together to change the culture of the national side. The game had gone professional but the approach by many of the players was amateur.
After a resounding loss to South Africa, the coaching team worked to have players take on more leadership roles and adopt a clear set of values. What they achieved was held up as a model for other elite sports teams. The new culture was set when the ABs won the 2011 World Cup and continued when Mr Smith’s former Canterbury teammate Steve Hansen took over to defend the Cup in 2015.
In 2012, Mr Smith co-coached the Chiefs to their first Super Rugby title the same year he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
In 2017 he stepped down from the All Blacks coaching team, ending a 20-year association with the side in playing and coaching. But he hasn’t given up coaching all together. He’s fluent in Italian and as the 2019 World Rugby Cup approaches he has worked as a special counsel to Italy’s head rugby coach.
Mr Smith will receive his Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato next Tuesday, 24 September.
Other 2019 Distinguished Alumni are ASB CEO Vittoria Shortt, international communications strategist and crisis manager Brian Sweeney, founder of SweeneyVesty, and Dr Andrew Smith, the University of Waikato’s first Rhodes Scholar and for the last nine years CEO of Hamilton-based international company Prolife Foods. They will receive their awards at a dinner on Friday 18 October.