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Smith: I want to make St George’s great again

Wendell Smith wants to do at St George's what he has started to achieve in two years at Western Stars, make the team a force again in local cricket.

Thirty years after first transforming St George's into a top team in local cricket as captain and coach, Smith is heading East to help out his home-town club.

Smith will leave his post at Western Stars at the end of the season, having achieved his goal of getting them promoted and surviving their first season back in the Premier Division.

However, just what role he will play with St George's is still to be worked out with the club, as Ryan Steede is the present coach.

Smith told his players after their shock win over St David's on Sunday that this would be his final season at St John's Field, having already spoken to club executives about his intention to leave.

“I actually told the management the week after Cup Match. I spoke to Ryan [Steede] and let him know I'm interested in coming to St George's, then I got in touch with Damon Walker [the chairman of selectors],” said Smith, who has also been in contact with Neil Paynter, the St George's president.

“I put it to Ryan that I didn't want to put him out of a position, but more so assisting and trying to get the programme up to a respectable level. His reaction was one of relief, because he is drained from doing so much with both the junior and senior teams.”

Smith left his post as St David's coach at the end of the 2014 season, after which Willis Dill, the Western Stars president, persuaded him to take over at Stars in early 2015.

“I had told Neil [Paynter] I would come to St George's when I was done with St David's, and it was always on my conscience that I didn't,” Smith said. “But it was a health reason, having trouble riding or driving a long distance.

“Then I got the offer to go to Western Stars, which is literally two minutes from my job. Willis Dill came to me and said they were looking for a coach after losing the [promotion] play-off game two years in a row. He said ‘we want you to come and coach and get us promoted'.

“I feel in a sense it is mission accomplished, we got promoted the first year and this year the goal was always to maintain our Premier Division status. Stars are now competitive where teams will not take them for granted. I think I'm leaving Stars in a comfortable position, however it's not a done deal with St George's yet.”

Smith, who grew up next to Wellington Oval, coached them for a ten-year period between 1985 and 1995 as they won league and Camel Cup titles. They also never lost Cup Match under his captaincy.

He also guided St David's to three league titles in four years as coach.

“I was blessed to have a lot of talented players at St George's and St David's,” Smith said. “I'm realising I don't have much time left in my coaching career, maybe two or three seasons at the most, so I figure it is time to come home.

“And even when I attend some functions that St George's put on like the President's Ball last November that was really first class, you get a sense of this is where your roots are.

“I look at things in three ways. You can be part of the problem, stand on the side and watch things happen, or be part of the solution. Right now St George's are in the lower division but that's my home club. I really enjoyed my two years at Stars, with people like Wayne Campbell always very supportive.

“I want to do for St George's what I helped Stars to do, get back into the Premier Division and be competitive again. The ball is in their court.”

Smith also had a short stint as national coach just before becoming Gus Logic's assistant when Bermuda qualified for the World Cup during the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005.

“If I ever coach after this it will probably be a junior national team, helping to develop cricket overall,” he said. “The Bermuda Cricket Board are doing a wonderful thing by sending kids on tour to England to develop their skills.

“I took over as coach of St George's in 1985 and I was very fortunate that the BCB sent me away to England twice — I also went once on my own — to get all three National Cricket Association beginning, intermediate and advanced degrees.

“I helped coach the national squad on Sundays with Clay [Smith] and Lorenzo [Tucker], just picking up tips. You never stop learning in cricket.”

Smith will miss Stars' game on Sunday against Bailey's Bay, and next week against Cleveland, as he will be in England to watch the first and second one-day international matches between England and Pakistan at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, and at Lord's next week.

“I'm excited that my son and I will get to go to Lord's together,” Smith said. “Maybe I'll pick up a few more pointers from watching those games.”

Heading home: Smith will leave Stars to try and revitalise St George's (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)

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Published August 19, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 19, 2016 at 7:33 am)

Smith: I want to make St George’s great again

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