Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle has led a chorus of praise from across the Australian rugby community after George Smith announced his retirement from professional rugby.
At an international level, Smith ended his career fifth on the all-time list of appearances in the gold jersey with 111 Tests and was a two-time John Eales Medallist (2002 and 2008).
Smith made his debut for the Wallabies in Paris in 2000 and played his last Test against the British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium in Sydney in 2013. He also racked up 164 Super Rugby appearances with the Brumbies and Reds.
George Smith!! The great man retires from rugby. I never thought this day would come… One of the genuine greats that I was fortunate to play with.. He’s one bloke I know will enjoy retirement #Enjoyment pic.twitter.com/r9dqz8l6yw
— Matt Giteau ?? (@giteau_rugby) May 21, 2019
Castle said: “On behalf of the Australian rugby community I extend my congratulations to George on what has been an amazing career.
“George belongs in that rare category of player that could turn the course of a game in an instant with a crucial turnover, a powerful run or a big defensive play.
“He was universally respected by his team-mates and opponents and has been a huge presence in the clubs he has represented all over the world, as well as on the international stage with the Wallabies.”
Wallabies great & proud Tongan, George Smith announces retirement after nearly 20 years at the top!
Thanks George! ????https://t.co/A3SX2IAQnT
— PacificRugbyWelfare (@pacificwelfare) May 21, 2019
Justin Harrison, general manager of the Classic Wallabies, added: “On behalf of the Classic Wallabies I pass on our congratulations to George on his remarkable rugby career.
“I, like many, had the great privilege of playing alongside George and I knew every time you played with him you knew you were playing alongside one of our greatest players and hairstyles.
“George has inspired a whole generation of Australian rugby supporters to pick up a ball and play the game. We are richer for having had the opportunity to witness George playing in a gold Wallaby jersey.
George Smith calls time on playing career, and what a career it was!
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) May 21, 2019
“We now welcome George to the Classic Wallabies and we ask that he keeps one pair of boots for his first Classics capped match.”
A product of Sydney’s northern beaches, Smith rapidly rose through the junior ranks at Sydney club side Manly before then-Brumbies coach Eddie Jones signed Smith as an 18-year old.
As well as winning the inaugural Eales Medal as the Wallabies Players’ Player, and repeating that feat in 2008, Smith also claimed 10 Brumbies Players’ Player awards during his 12-year stay in Canberra.
WATCH: Part one of the RugbyPass Legends interview with Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell
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