AFTER proving his versatility in the backs for the past two seasons, Jon Smith may just have found a settled place in YMCA’s first team – and it’s his dream position of fly-half!
The 28-year-old Physical Education teacher at Salendine Nook High School has played in every position outside of the pack since his arrival at Laund Hill, but has really made an indelible mark in the last two games after playing in the problem position of stand-off.
“I know it’s my versatility which has helped me stay in the side, and I think I’ve played pretty much everywhere,” admitted Smith.
“Last season I was all over the place, even at scrum half, but I enjoy playing at No10 the most. It’s my dream position. I like having the ball in my hands and enjoy being able to have an influence on the game.
“I think the majority of young soccer players probably dream of playing at centre forward, while the majority of rugby union players want to play at No10.”
Originally from the East Midlands, Smith began his rugby career with Midlands II East club Newark, where he played most of his games either on the wing or at full-back, before moving up North to continue his further education at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Initially, he continued to go back down and play for Newark, but then decided to play nearer his Leeds home and joined local club Roundhegians, where he played five years before his next move to Huddersfield and his subsequent decision to join the YM.
“I played at bit at 10 while I was with Roundhegians, and then again when I joined YM and spent some time in the Seconds, but I’ve always been really happy just to play anywhere, which is why I suppose I came to be seen more as a utility player,” continued Smith.
It’s no secret that stand-off has proved a difficult position for director of rugby Damon Scholes and head coach Jody Shaw to fill successfully, with James Swift starting the season at 10, before newcomer Jon Cole was also tried there, as was Josh Marshall.
But following good reports from his performances with the Seconds, Smith was given the starting chance at 10 in the first team’s visit to Pontefract and he produced an excellent display, pulling the strings to great effect as the Laund Hill side earned a rare, and very welcome win.
And although he couldn’t quite inspire YM to back-to-back wins last week at home to Pocklington, he was nevertheless again one of the stand-out performers – and more importantly, he looks the part!
He clearly has a good ‘rugby brain,’ his kicking out of hand was good, as was his place kicking, which included a touchline conversion to the first try, and his distribution was, for the most part, safe and secure and he is extremely solid in the tackle.
“I think sometimes in tighter games a bit of experience helps, especially like in the last two games, when they have been pretty much aggressive ‘at the coalface’ affairs, and I’ve been able to bring a bit more control when needed,” said Smith.
“In fact, from my perspective, I’ve been reasonably happy with the way it’s gone in the last two games.
“We have a weekend off now, but then we reach an important part of the season when we embark on a run of crucial games against teams around us in the League, like Scarborough, who are next up at home, followed by North Ribblesdale, Dinnington and Knottingley.”
This is Smith’s third year at Salendine Nook High School and his third season with the YMCA, and maybe now it’s time to consolidate and decide on his proper role in the side.
“For a while now there has been a tendency to chop and change a bit at half-back and it would be lovely to have a good run in the side at stand-off, but whether I’m the answer to the long-term problem is up to Damon and Jody!”