The 400 game barrier has rarely been reached at any level. Only two West Australian players – Barry Cable and Brian Peake – managed 400 games and Smith is the first umpire.
The 43-year-old began his WAFL career in 1994, went on to umpire 159 AFL matches and two WAFL grand finals. His AFL career ended after the 2005 season, but he returned to the WAFL and has been a staple on the boundary ever since.
Smith said he found it hard to comprehend that he would be umpiring his 400th match.
“It’s a strange feeling,” Smith said.
“There’s a lot of guys who have done milestones this year and when I hear someone is doing their 250th, I think ‘wow, that’s a lot of games’ and then it hits me that I’m about to do 400. That’s a really long time. We had the umpire’ association’s 60th anniversary function this year and I caught up with a lot of guys who haven’t umpired for a really, really long time but I umpired with them.
“It was a year by year process when I came back. I wanted to come back because I enjoyed it and since then every year has gone by.
“I want to improve every year and the younger guys challenge me and push me. Seeing the young guys develop is really exciting. But my goals are always to improve every year.”
Smith was picked in the WANFLUA’s Team of the Decade at the 60th anniversary function, the umpiring changerooms are named in his honour and he is a life member of the association.
But his deeds have also inspired and taught others.
“He’s an icon,” 2011 AFL Grand Final boundary umpire Nathan Doig said.
“Whenever I have a question about boundary umpiring and what I should be doing on the field, Smithy’s the person I go to.”
Fellow AFL umpire Alan Zanich, who began his time at the elite level in 2004, said Smith was the most humble person he’d met in football and his career proved that it is crucial to get the basics right.
“My coach pointed out to me that Greg was the most consistent thrower of the ball that we had,” Zanich said.
“He wasn’t the highest, he wasn’t the longest but he was the most consistent. So, I stole the last half of his technique which is his release.
“He has a really controlled, single handed, straight release. Most guys sling it out but Smithy is very controlled with his palm in front of his face. Now, that’s what I show other people and tell them that is what Smithy does.”
While at 43 years of age Smith is no longer among the elite runners, AFL boundary umpires’ coach Geoff O’Neill said it was amazing he had maintained such strong fitness levels beyond his 40th birthday.
Three time WAFL grand final umpire Richard Heptinstall said Smith made the game look easy.
“In my first year, we were doing a game at East Fremantle and it was 35 degrees and more than 40 goals got kicked,” Heptinstall said.
“I was exhausted and looked across to the other side of the ground and Smithy barely looked like he was sweating. He told me after the game that he found it quite hard that day, but he is a machine.”
Smith is often appointed to run with developing umpires so he can pass on his experience. One of those, Brodie Ward, said all of the inexperienced boundary umpires lapped up the opportunity to work alongside a legend of the craft.
“When you’re coming through, he’s the perfect person to look at because no-one does it better,” Ward said.
“You should watch and learn but he’s always there to help you and tell you what you need to do if you need it. He gives the most constructive feedback that you could ever ask for.”
High Performance Umpire Manager Darryl Sinclair said this achievement sits as one of the greatest achievements in WAFL football, his dedication and professionalism on and off the field has been fantastic.