In light of Football NSW’s initiative of the special ‘Heritage Round’ happening this weekend, well renowned Football NSW journalist Micky Brock took the time to chat to the special one they all call “Mr Sutherland”.
Paul Smith has been the President of the Sutherland Sharks since 2006 but his involvement with Shire football spans over fifty years.
“I started with the Under 8s and came through the ranks to represent the first team in the top flight which these days would be the NSL or A-League at the age of 17 and came up against the likes of Watkiss and Warren etc.
“I played for ten years but did collect a few injuries, particularly my knee and retired at 26 although through the injuries I took on a coaching role and later coached a few Rep sides before taking some time out to raise a family,” he said.
His association with the club wasn’t to end there of course and he returned when his own boys took up the game, with some distinction.
This was fortunate as Smith spent a number of years as the Chairman of the Youth League Committee from whence he joined the board of Sutherland Sharks.
When adding in a heavy involvement in schools football for over thirty years along with the PWSA and his involvement in Shire football is quite remarkable.
Like so many, his typical match day begins around 6.30am when it’s off to pick-up the stuff for the BBQ and Canteen and then back to the ground in getting everything set up with the aid of a few fellow committee members before being able to relax slightly and watch a few of the junior games.
Meanwhile, ducking out to pick up various items, including the platters for the 1st grade players and getting the boxes ready for guests (Junior Clubs, sponsors), organizing the pre-match and half-time entertainment, making sure everywhere is staffed properly – gates, canteen, BBQ and then be on call to step in if and when required.
If the above wasn’t enough, Smith also presents the ‘Man of the Match’ awards at the conclusion of a game and literally turns out the lights too but none of this would be possible without the support of someone very special of whom he states.
“The game has been good to me over the years and very rewarding and I’ve been fortunate to have had the love and support of my wife Debbie, although I reckon that support may be wearing a little thin after all these years,” he jokes before adding.
“I suppose I am beginning to look forward to the day when I can hand over the reins and just sit in the stands watching a game without thinking I’ve forgotten something.”
Sutherland Sharks were struggling especially when their licensed club went down in 1996 and so began a partnership that has seen a sensational rise in the fortunes of the Shire outfit.
“We really need to thank John Hills and Pipe King for their support. When our licensed club went belly up we were struggling for cash but with his sponsorship it’s allowed us to generate funds through our artificial pitch and that has been a major contribution in getting us where we are today. It was invaluable back then and remains so today.”
With over half a century of Shire football involvement there are a couple of things that stand out for Smith.
“Firstly the growth of the club from where it was to where we are today and I’m particularly proud of our junior development set-up which has produced some outstanding players in the past to the present day.
“Players such as Chris Naumoff and Alex Gersbach playing in the A-League today and the past players who have gone on to representative football at the higher level but one moment over the years that sticks in my mind goes back to when Seymour Shaw was a grass pitch.
“The field used to get incredibly muddy down one end and we had the brainwave of using a steamroller to level out the ground a little bit. We got it out during one half-time break as the six-yard area was particularly poor but the driver lost control of the vehicle and cannoned into the upright. It was touch and go but fortunately we managed to get the game finished but looking back it does tickle you in the differences to what it used to be,” of course Smith didn’t recall the result of the game?
Fifty years as player, coach, committee man and President and just one of so many stories of the dedication shown by so many who don’t do it for fame or fortune but the phrase; “for the good of the game.”
Heritage Round Match Details
South Coast Wolves vs Sutherland Sharks
3:00pm Sunday 14th June @ WIN Stadium
Tickets available at here (Adults $15, Concessions $10)
– by Micky Brock