Wallabies legend George Smith has spoken about his 20-day stint in a Tokyo jail after a night out drinking on New Year’s Eve.
There were allegations that he failed to pay a taxi fare, pushed a 58-year-old taxi driver and ran away, but he was eventually released without charge after the Japanese prosecutor indicated there was no case to answer.
“Yes, an incident happened but there were a lot of inconsistencies to how it was portrayed. There are details which have to be kept confidential but my new disc was still fusing with vertebrae so I was no chance of jogging (away) anywhere”.
“Look, it was a police station cell for 20 days. I had access to my family (by phone) and my wife travelled over. It is what it is.”
The length of his detention raised eyebrows, as Smith fought to defend his reputation.
“I’ve spent plenty of seasons over there so I knew it was important I allowed the Japanese judicial system to go its full course.”
“It’s very different to the Australian system and there were frustrating days but I knew I had to be patient.”
“The main thing was I was pretty confident there would be no case to answer and most important of all that proved to be true with no charges.”
But damage had been done, his Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath cancelled his contract, while Queensland Rugby Union fined him for not telling them about his arrest and time in jail.
“I’m disappointed I brought negative publicity on my two clubs (Suntory and the Reds) and I was very respectful to the team I was involved within in Japan and fine with their decision.”
Smith, who played 111 Tests for Australia, is now gearing up for a return to the field. He’s due to line up for Brisbane-based club Brothers, when they face city rivals Easts. Smith has been undergoing four months of rebab after disc surgery on his back last December.
“For me, this is not a redemption return but very much a return from injury because my rugby is very separate to my personal. Life’s good…I’ve moved on.”
“I haven’t played a club game for perhaps 10 years so I’m looking forward to it at a club with the history that Brothers has and to do my bit for grassroots which is where I started,” Smith added.
The target is to reclaim a spot with the Queensland Reds and a return to Super Rugby.
Watch episode 1 of the Rugby Explorer with Jim Hamilton
Ex-Scotland international, Jim Hamilton, travels to Singapore to explore the city and find out more about the rugby scene in the Southeast Asian country. He meets up with the national team captain and several local players.
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