Date of birth: 29/7/65
Place of birth: Christchurch
Current clubs: Merrylands (Sydney) & United
Year started bowling: 1992/93
Cap number: 37
International debut: 2003
National titles: 5 (pairs 2004, 2011 & 2019 and fours 2010 & 2017)
World Bowls medals: 2 golds (singles & pairs 2008) 2 silver (singles & pairs 2012) & 2 bronze (triples 2004 & fours 2016)
Commonwealth Games medals: 2 silver (singles 2010 & fours 2014)
Nicknames: Smithy, Smithers
Occupation: Women’s bowls co-ordinator
Interests outside bowls: Working out, reading, listening to music, watching sport and socialising with friends.
Val Smith has dedicated the best part of two decades to the Blackjacks and has along the way won two world titles and multiple other international medals while playing more than 600 games for New Zealand. She was the second player to reach the milestone, after her best mate Jo Edwards, whose careers are intertwined.
Smith became friends with Edwards in 1982, when they were members of the Nelson cricket team and they got their first taste of bowls seven years later in the province’s sports all-rounder competition. After a couple of seasons of business house competition Smith became “absolutely fascinated” by the sport and both she and Edwards decided in 1992 to give softball up for a year and have a crack at bowls. Softball would never see them again.
Val Smith steadily rose through the ranks and little over a decade later made her international debut at the Trans Tasman in Sydney, where she played two in the four and middle of the triple. She was then selected to represent New Zealand at the 2004 world championships in Scotland. The four lost in the quarter-finals, but Smith didn’t return home empty-handed, claiming bronze in the triples with Marlene Castle and Wendy Jensen.
After losing in the quarter-finals of the triples at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games two years later, Smith took over the singles role from Edwards and shone. In undoubtedly the highlight of her career she claimed double gold at the 2008 world championships in Christchurch, winning the singles and the pairs, with Edwards.
Smith’s singles silver two years later at the Delhi Games was satisfying for different reasons. She was languishing in ninth place in her section after losing four of her opening matches, but fought back to make the final. It was a sign of her great mental strength. Delhi was the last Games where players were only able to feature in one discipline each. With Smith being sociable by nature, she found it a lonely campaign only playing singles and being away from her team-mates.
She was reunited with her best mate at the 2012 world championships and Smith and Edwards claimed silver in both the pairs and the singles. It was her last major event in the individual discipline, with Edwards taking over for Glasgow in 2014. It was not the only major change in her life. She also left Nelson to become the women’s bowls co-ordinator at Merrylands in Sydney.
Smith claimed bronze medals in the fours at the 2014 Games and 2016 world championships and had high hopes for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. But it ended being a “disastrous campaign” for Smith, failing to qualify for the quarter-finals of the pairs with Edwards and losing in the last eight of the fours. It made her strive to reassess her game and mindset. The 2019 national pairs success with Lisa Prideaux was a breakthrough and rewarding result for Smith, who had spent considerable time addressing technical flaws that had crept into her delivery.
She also rediscovered her passion and enjoyment for the sport.
Val Smith was selected to represent New Zealand in the triples and fours at the 2020 world championships on the Gold Coast, which have been postponed 12 months.