Craig Smith has some sad news and some great news.
The sad news is the classy all-rounder has played his last game of cricket for North Otago.
The great news is the province will immediately win the Hawke Cup in his absence – well, that’s sort of his prediction.
Smith (33) has confirmed his retirement from representative cricket, leaving a big hole in the North Otago team this summer and beyond.
“The passion for playing cricket at that level is not quite there,” he said earlier this week.
“My body is starting to fall apart a little bit, and I also really want to spend more time with the family.”
Smith has been nursing a dicky knee in recent seasons, and said that was the main physical reason he came to the difficult decision to step back.
“It was an ongoing issue last year but I managed to scrape my way through to the end of the season.
“It hasn’t been 100%, and a few other things are starting to get a bit creaky too.
“The mind knows what it wants to do but the body doesn’t always shape up the same way.”
Smith played 30 games over nine different summers for North Otago, either side of a stint in Southland.
He finished with 90 wickets – good for eighth on the all-time bowling list for the province – with three five-wicket bags, and 659 runs (two 50s), and said he would miss being part of the squad.
“Representing your province is something you always want to do.
“There’s a good bunch of keen lads in North Otago, so the social aspect will be a big thing I will miss.”
Smith, who played in unsuccessful Hawke Cup challenges for both of his district teams, also wonders if his departure might be followed by some glory for North Otago.
“I went to Southland in 2010, and North Otago then went out and won the Hawke Cup.
“Then I came back to North Otago a couple of years ago, and funnily enough Southland won the cup a year later.
“So it must be a good omen for North Otago that I’m not playing this year.”
Smith was a year 12 pupil at St Kevin’s College when he made his debut for North Otago in the 2001-02 season.
“I remember my first game was a warm-up against Canterbury Country at Waitaki Boys’. It’s fair to say it was a different level.
“They had a couple of fringe Canterbury players. I was probably a fair way out of my depth, but it was cool to get a crack at that level when I was so young.”
Smith would go on to play 24 first-class games for the Otago Volts.
While he downplays his achievements at the top provincial level – “I was never the most talented guy” – he is satisfied he did what he could to get the most out of himself.
“I would have liked to have done better at that level, in some aspects, but I’m fairly proud to have done what I’ve done.”
Smith will still play club cricket for Oamaru-St Kevin’s, and as a teacher at St Kevin’s, he is eager to see the school back in the Borton Cup in its own right.
The end of his representative cricket career coincides with the finish of his rugby career, full stop.
Smith, a midfield or outside back, was a key part of the Maheno team that charged to Citizens Shield glory in 2016, and played for North Otago in the Heartland Championship the same year.
“I’ve definitely done my dash with rugby.
“I’m looking forward to watching the Maheno boys, and maybe running a bit of water for them at some stage.”