TONY SMITH Getty Images
TONY SMITH Getty Images


By STEVE SPINKS! GROWING up playing football on the dusty fields of Casino, Tony Smith never for one moment thought he would be plotting the downfall of the Australian rugby league team in a World Cup while pledging his loyalty to the Queen and the United Kingdom.

But that's exactly what he's doing this week as he travels around Australia on a fact-finding mission for this year's World Cup as the newly installed Great Britain head coach.

What's more, Smith is planning on applying for a British passport on his return from his tour of Australia.

To do so, the 40-year-old has to first pass a test on British life and culture, swear an oath to the Queen and pledge his loyalty to the UK. That's enough to make any self-respecting Australian sick.

"I'll apply when I get back," Smith told The Northern Star yesterday from Brisbane after he had toured Suncorp Stadium.

"I could have got one a couple of years ago, but it didn't suit my situation. But some laws have changed recently so I can hold two passports.

"I'm not, nor would I ever, relinquish my Australian passport.

"I never imagined being involved with the Great Britain side, or a lot of the things I've been involved in. I'm grateful for the opportunities."

Smith was appointed as the Great Britain coach late last year after a successful Super League coaching career with Huddersfield and Leeds. He's the second Australian to be appointed to the position following David Waite.

Smith's professional coaching career started with the Adelaide Rams and Parramatta after a playing career that involved stints with Illawarra and St George.

The former Casino boy was part of the Dragons team that lost the 1992 grand final to the Brisbane Broncos.

But while his career has reached the heights of being involved in grand finals in both the NRL and the Super League, Smith hasn't forgotten his Northern Rivers roots.

"I learned a lot from a lot of good people in Casino," he said.

"There is stuff I learned as a player in Casino that I still use myself. A lot of people along the way helped develop my career."

Smith kicked off his Great Britain coaching record with a 3-0 series win over New Zealand late last year and he's looking forward to developing the Lions further.

"We've got a mid-year game against the French, probably in France, which will be good practise because it involves travel and dealing with it," he said.

"After that we'll probably have a warm-up match in the UK before the World Cup."

And the former five-eighth is confident that the Lions will be a force.

"The game is getting stronger across the board over there," Smith said.

"We have a salary cap system now and because of that the competition is much more even.

"There is also a different style of rugby league than Australia in that it's a little more open. It's a little more orientated towards risk-taking, so it's not just about the percentages or completion rates."

Asked if he thought risky football was the way to win a World Cup, Smith replied: "We'll find out, won't we."

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