Darren Smith had made his mind up to rejoin the Brisbane Broncos for 2003, prior to Darren Britt`s late night telephone call advising him of Saints` interest in obtaining his signature. The opportunity had arisen because Peter Shiels had announced his enforced early retirement and St. Helens wasted no time in filling his position on the clubs `overseas quota`. At 34 years of age, `Smithy` has played his entire career at the very pinnacle of the Australian game and his effect of the 2003 St. Helens squad was similar to that of David Fairleigh, back in 2001.
Equally at home in the Centre or Loose Forward positions, Darren had played in 6 Test Matches and 5 Super League Test Matches for Australia and he had made 19 State of Origin appearances for Queensland, for whom he has also represented in 3 Tri-Series. In his 17 appearances for the Bulldogs in 2002, he scored 3 tries, thus taking his NRL totals to 109 tries and a goal in his 272 appearances.
His exploits for both the Bulldogs and the Broncos were legendary and during his era there can be very few forwards who can have achieved as much as he has. In the 1997 World Club Championship Final, Darren was named as `man of the match` for Brisbane Broncos, against Hunter Mariners, after he scored an hat trick of tries.
In 2002, not only was he an ever present for Queensland in the State of Origin series, but he was a member of the Canterbury Bulldogs team which were running away with the NRL Championship, until they were controversially docked points for their breach of the Salary Cap. The Bulldogs thus finished their campaign bottom of the NRL.
"One of the main reasons that I decided to come to England and play for St. Helens was because of what happened to the Bulldogs that year. It was so disappointing. The rewards for all our hard work and training and our performances on the field were just taken away."
"I was going to rejoin the Broncos, then Darren Britt rang me and said that St. Helens were interested in signing me. I thought that my chance of playing in England had passed me by. I asked loads of questions and was very enthusiastic. I came to St. Helens to win. St. Helens were a legendary club in Australia with a great following there and to play for them at the very height of their powers is a challenge which has proved irresistible to me. They had a style of play and a Club attitude and culture which appealed greatly to me and I was just raring to go."
Darren has signed a 12 month contract and there is no doubt that having both Darren Britt and Barry Ward in the Saints` camp will helped him to settle. Just for good measure, younger bother Jason was skipper of Hull FC at the time.
Ian Millward commented at the time of his signing: "We are ecstatic to have been able to land a player of the experience and quality of Darren Smith. He has consistently performed at the top throughout his career and had one of his best seasons ever in 2002 for both Canterbury and Queensland. He will fit quickly into the Saints style of play and his multi skilled talents and toughness will provide us with more options in our artillery - the Saints and Darren are going to be firing. Super League VIII is going to be tougher than ever and we aim to stay at the top - Darren`s signing will ensure that Saints` fans and rugby league fans are in for another great season."
Darren made his debut for the Saints against UTC (France) on February 8th., 2003. He immediately showed his class by scoring a try in a very impressive debut. His linking up and astute passes and clever offloads have already endeared him to many Saints` fans. He is also superb in defence and after the first ten matches with the club Darren had scored an incredible seven tries. His brilliant play in the centres and stunning cover tackles belied his 34 years of age. As the season progressed Saints fortunes dipped. In one of the greatest cup semi-finals of all time Saints lost to Leeds in extra time. Darren played a blinder and grabbed a brace of tries which in the end proved to be scant consolation for the man from down under. Injuries to the squad meant that Saints` Championship campaign fizzled away. Despite the disappointment Darren seemed to go from strength to strength and ended the season as the Saints` top try scorer. This player was sheer class throughout his career!