Born – 26 February 1948
Passed Away – 5 November 2019
Rugby League lost a real character when Bob Smithies passed away late last year, aged 71. Born in England, Bob and his family migrated to Australia when he was a small boy. They settled at Dapto where his first competition sport was soccer with the Unanderra Hearts club in under 8s. He began playing Rugby League with Dapto under 12s in 1960 and quickly became a schoolboy star, representing NSW Schools in four successive years, while a student at Dapto High. He was a key member of Dapto’s under 16 (1964) and under 18 (1965 and 1966) Premiership winning teams in the Illawarra Junior competition and also represented Illawarra at both under 16 and under 18 levels.
Academically, Bob was also quite gifted and after doing well in the HSC exam, he became a teacher, with his first appointment in 1967, being Hardys Mill, a one teacher school near Tumbarumba. He played with Tumbarumba in the banned Murrumbidgee League, where his opposing players included Arthur Summons, Denis Meaney, English Test winger Mike Sullivan and Kiwi Test player, Graham Kennedy. Back in the Illawarra district in 1968, he was a member of the Dapto team, which won the Illawarra first grade Premiership. He scored 10 tries that season and finished with 48 points. He won the Mercury newspaper 1968 Illawarra Player of the Year Award and was also the Illawarra Rugby League’s Illawarra under 21 Player of the Year. Balmain moved quickly to sign the exciting young fullback and he played the first of his three seasons with the club in 1969. At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 20 September 1969, he had a good game in Balmain’s 11-2 Grand Final win over South Sydney. In his three seasons at Leichhardt, Bob played 58 first grade with the Tigers, scoring 14 tries. He also represented City Seconds in 1971 against Country Seconds.
He went back to Dapto for one season in 1972 and then joined Hull Kingston Rovers in England, where he played for three seasons. In 55 first team matches with Hull KR, Bob scored 22 tries. In November 1973, he played for Hull KR against the touring Australians and suffered a badly broken arm in this match which kept him out of football for nine months. He returned to Australia and Dapto in 1975 and won three successive Illawarra first grade Premiership with the Club. He then had one season as the 1978 captain/coach of Avondale in the Illawarra second division and led that club to the Premiership. Back with Dapto again in 1979, he won another Illawarra first grade Premiership, starring at five eighth in the 22-3 Grand Final win over Wests.
He began the 1980 season with Dapto and celebrated his 100th first grade match with the club in May 1980. In 1981, to help out a close friend, he joined the nearby Albion Park-Oak Flats reserve grade team in the South Coast competition. They were beaten in the reserve grade grand Final and this was Bob’s only loss in 12 Grand Finals. At 34 years of age, he had one last season with the Dapto Canaries and in his last game, played strongly with the Dapto reserve grade team in their 15-13 Grand Final win over Corrimal. On his successful CV, Bob has an NRL first grade Premiership (it was the NSWRL in 1969), six Illawarra first grade Premierships, one Illawarra second division title and three Illawarra junior Premierships. Bob has a son, two daughters and 11 grandchildren.