Jack Smith: Royal Marine turned Super League referee
By Paul Vinnell
Last Updated: 12/06/16 4:54pm
The remarkable and dramatic story of how referee Jack Smith arrived in Super League has been revealed.
The 27-year-old, whose first televised match was Widnes' 38-28 victory over Castleford last Thursday, is a former Royal Marines commando who was shot by a Taliban sniper in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in August 2010.
The bullet damaged his liver, diaphragm and right lung, broke 10 of his ribs and emerged through an exit wound in his chest.
He was airlifted back to England in a coma and woke up two weeks later. It took two years of rehabilitation for Smith to recover from his horrific injuries and he was discharged from the Marines on medical grounds.
But in the last four years he has risen rapidly through the refereeing ranks, from junior matches to the elite competition in British rugby league.
And Smith says his training with the Marines has held him in good stead as he enters the high-pressure world of Super League officiating.
"It definitely helps dealing with any pressure," Smith told the Sunday Mirror.
"Up until Thursday afternoon, I'd never got nervous about anything refereeing-wise, because it doesn't really matter.
"Generally your outlook on life changes - how you get to places and why things happen. My background has really helped on that - I see what happened as a blessing now."
Smith, a former amateur player, believes there are striking similarities between his life in the Marines and rugby league.
"I'm home a lot more with my family and I've got into refereeing, which I never would have if I hadn't got injured," said Smith.
"There are similarities between rugby league and the Marines - the discipline involved and the camaraderie the players have.
"I find that between the players and myself - I like to have a crack with them on the field because they're just normal lads, like the referees."