Peter Smith’s achievements at Featherstone Rovers make him one of the most revered figures to have ever pulled on the blue & white jersey. His career spanned an astonishing seventeen years, involved overcoming crippling injuries and was sprinkled with top honours, both domestic and international. His name became a byword for all the very best things about rugby league.
He made his debut as a rangy but durable looking second-row forward in January 1974 against Rochdale and immediately made an impact with his dedication and enormous appetite for work. He always took the ball in strongly, running straight and true. On defence, he was simply magnificent. Peter Smith was the best tackler this writer has ever seen. An ideal trainer, who rarely if ever gave away penalties he was quickly marked out as a model professional and a coach’s dream. Although he was a substitute in the 1974 Cup semi-final he did not make the fifteen at Wembley. He would have to wait a further nine seasons for his date at the twin towers. Before then he picked up a Championship medal with Rovers in 1977, finishing that year as the club’s leading try scorer with twenty. That same summer he was selected in the England World Cup party, playing in the 1977 World Cup Final against Australia.
At the height of his powers, aged 27, and fresh from his finest hour, our 1983 Cup win at Wembley, Peter suffered a serious back injury whilst training with the Great Britain squad. The injury and its consequences decimated the next three years and threatened to bring an outstanding career to a premature conclusion. He manged about a dozen games in those three years, as injuries, comebacks and further setbacks dogged his progress. Finally in 1986, which happened to be his testimonial year, he got back to full fitness, and gave Rovers three more tremendous seasons. At this stage, his incredible tackling and work-rate were supplemented by the nous and experience of having spent so many years at the top of the sport. Peter had a year in the second division when he set a new try scoring record for a forward at Featherstone with 21. His international honours stood at six Great Britain caps, scant reward for one of the best forwards of his generation. He was also capped by England and Yorkshire.
Soon after appearing in the 1989 Yorkshire Cup final (his third), and scoring a trademark try against Bradford, another injury forced him to call time on a fantastic Featherstone career which had spanned some 419 matches. His 110 tries were the most ever by a forward at Featherstone. How much higher could those figures have been but for that injury-plagued spell?
Surprisingly for such a dedicated one club player, a year after retiring Peter helped out at the newly formed Scarborough Pirates, and, ever the professional, gave the Pirates good service during 1991/92 aged 36.