Jason Smith (born 14 March 1972 in Brisbane, Queensland) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1990s and 2000s. A Queensland State of Origin and Australian international representative five-eighth or lock forward, he played club football in Australia for the Bulldogs (with whom he won the 1995 Premiership), Eels, Raiders and Cowboys, and in England for Hull.
Former Brisbane Souths five-eighth/lock and the younger brother of Darren Smith, Jason signed with Sydney's Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs as an 18-year-old in 1990. The following year Smith captained the club's President's Cup side to a grand final win over Parramatta but his development during the 1994 NSWRL season was nothing short of remarkable.
Mobile, yet incredibly strong, he displayed his talent as a ball-player in Canterbury's back row or at five-eighth and impressed as a resolute defender. His début for Queensland in the 1994 State of Origin series ended when he was concussed after a sickening clash of heads with rival forward Ian Roberts. Smith recovered to play in Canterbury's losing grand final side and was rewarded for his season's efforts with selection in Australia's 28-man Kangaroo squad. His form on the 1994 Kangaroo tour was excellent and although he was the outstanding player in wins over Warrington and Bradford Northern in the week leading up to Third Test selection, he could not break into Australia's Test team.
1995 proved to be a turning point in Smith's career. After having originally signed with the Bulldogs to join Super League, Smith and three team-mates (Dean Pay, Jarrod McCracken and Jim Dymock) turned their backs on their club and signed with the ARL. This move consequently ensured Smith a place in Queensland's State of Origin team, with whom he was named man-of-the-match in the second game of the 1995 series. He also went on to play in all three Tests against New Zealand. After gaining a release from his Super League contract via the courts, Smith played in the Bulldogs' grand final win against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles before coming off the interchange bench in Australia's 16-8 win in the 1995 World Cup final.
Joining Parramatta Eels along with his defecting team-mates the following year in order to remain with the ARL competition, his representative career continued for Queensland and Australia (vs. Papua New Guinea) but his 1997 season was ruined by injury. At Parramatta, Smith's commitment never wavered despite a succession of injuries. In three successive preliminary finals (1998-00), the Eels faltered at the last hurdle to making the grand final and too often the young club's fortunes rested on his shoulders. In 1998, with rugby league re-united, Smith played in the final two Tests of the Trans-Tasman series, alongside his brother Darren, and was chosen as lock in the first international the following year, Australia's 20-14 win over New Zealand.
In Game III of the 1999 State of Origin series, Smith was cleared of a controversial high tackle on opposing forward Mark Carroll that left the Blues' prop heavily concussed. (It was later revealed that Carroll's own hand, which he raised in a reflex action to protect himself in Smith's ball and all tackle, had struck him and done much of the damage).
Smith's 1999 NRL season concluded with three Test appearances in Australia's victorious 1999 Tri-nations series win against New Zealand and Great Britain in Auckland.
2000 saw Smith make his final appearance for Australia, in the 52-0 thrashing of the Kiwis in the ANZAC Test. That year he was also awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league.
Declining to take on the Parramatta captaincy in his final year with the club, his career appeared to be winding down after injuries and suspension saw him miss much of the second half of the season. Smith left the Eels at the end of the year to play for Hull in the European Super League, captaining the side from 2002 to 2004. 2005 saw him back in Australia playing with the Canberra Raiders. He also turned down a request to make a State of Origin comeback for Queensland.
2007 saw a move North for Smith to the North Queensland Cowboys, becoming the oldest player to compete in the 2007 NRL season at age 35 years and 186 days. On 6 June, midway through the season, he announced that would retire at the end of the season. His final game was on 15 September in the Cowboys' semi-final victory over the New Zealand Warriors. A leg injury saw him sit out the preliminary final loss to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail confirmed on 31 August 2007 that Smith will take up the position of assistant coach of the Souths Logan Magpies in the 2008 Queensland Cup. This will put him in direct opposition with brother Darren, who will be head coach of rival side, Eastern Suburbs Tigers. Smith played in the State of Origin greats game in 2011 to raise money for the Queensland flood victims. He currently lives in Toowoomba and will play for Toowoomba Brothers in the Toowoomba Rugby League competition in 2011.
- Roy Masters (5 July 2005). "Slater axing has fans all at sea". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia: Fairfax Media). http://www.smh.com.au/news/league/slater-axing-has-fans-all-at-sea/2005/07/04/1120329386754.html. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- Toohey, Barry (2 February 2011). "Still some bite in old Mad Dog". The Daily Telegraph (Australia: News Limited). http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/nrl/still-some-bite-in-old-mad-dog/story-e6frfgbo-1225998290314. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- "Jason Smith announces NRL retirement". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007-06-06. http://www.smh.com.au/news/Sport/Jason-Smith-announces-NRL-retirement/2007/06/06/1181089128838.html. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
- Mascord, Steve (24 September 2007). "Cowboys salute Smith, Bowman". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22467731-5006066,00.html. Retrieved 24 September 2007.