Wayne Smith in Cancer Scare

Wayne Smith in Cancer Scare

One of New Zealand rugby’s most popular coaches and former All Black, has faced a personal battle with cancer. Wayne Smith; who had only just retired from the Assistant Coaches role, is now looking at recovery after an operation early in December to remove his prostate–according to sources.

Fairfax Media columnist Phil Gifford, who is a longtime friend of Wayne Smith, broke the story on Sunday to a shocked World Rugby audience. Smith, who is known across the game for his innovative coaching philosophy and inventive backline plays, was sadly unable to attend the ASB New Zealand Rugby Awards due to his recovery [where Smith won the Steinlager Salvo for services to Rugby].

The bad health news for Wayne Smith has come so soon after his apparent ‘retirement’ from all rugby involvement. And while this scare might keep most men down, Smith has also revealed that he will be contracted by Italian Rugby in a short term role; prior to the 2018 Six Nations.

Wayne Smith Receives Positive News on Prostate Cancer Scare

Gifford reported that ‘Smith’s surgeon Michael rang to say the pathology report on the prostate had been completed, and it indicated that, most probably, Smith had been cured. There was no sign of any cells being left behind.’

In publicly informing his fans that he had been diagnosed and is now in recovery, Smith chooses to ‘take the affirmative step’ towards his health scare. Like others who have fought battles with cancer and then spoken publicly; Sir Peter Leitch, Buck Shelford and Gifford, Smith hoped his public stance “might encourage guys in their 50’s to go and get the tests, and get a marker.”

wane smith hopes to encourage others to be pro-active; “It doesn’t mean you’ve got it, but if it is there, you can fix it”.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of male deaths in New Zealand  [as it is in First World nations] and the prognosis is that early detection will benefit Smith is his recovery program. As much as the focus is on the welfare of Wayne Smith and his wife Trish, the respected coach had already made arrangements with Italian Rugby to work with the Six Nations squad. This will be as a ‘rugby mentor’ and as adviser to Italy.

Captain Sergio Parisse of Italy is seen prior to the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Recovery Alongside New ‘Rugby Mentor’ Role with Azzuri

That role with now seem secondary to his recovery, but with Smith’s strong affiliation with the Italian nation, he may enjoy to post-treatment services in Europe–to compliment the advice found in Hamilton (Smith’s home town). Smith played rugby in the ‘amateur era’ when a winter in Europe only brought perks with no professionalism; as in the Pro14/Italian league.

The discovery he had cancer played no role in Smith’s decision to step down from the All Black coaching team. Smith told Gifford “leaving (the All Blacks) was decided at end of 2016. But what’s happened (having prostate cancer) did clarify for me that I’d made the right decision. It sort of made me think, someone’s looking after you.

“Now I’ve got to spend time making sure I get myself right.”

“I have a couple of little projects I started arranging immediately”. Thus, his recovery and ongoing check-ups may go hand-in-hand with his work with the Azzuri role. But it does mean he will still be involved in the sport.

When Last Word on Rugby last saw Smith, we wished him well with a fond handshake in Brisbane last year. But it appears his high standing and demand will see him again ‘speaking rugby’ and less relaxing at home, than he had spoken of publicly in October.

But certainly, the full recovery will be terribly important. It might limit as much input as Smith may have promised Italian Rugby originally, but if they want to benefit from the advice of the Professor, then they would pay to respect his treatment process – before any players or coaches can gain from his much respected rugby-intelligence.


The Sunday Star Times full article is available here.


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