Jack Smith made his television debut as Castleford Tigers took on Widnes Vikings in the First Utility Super League in June this year.

Jack Smith has enjoyed a rapid rise in his short time as a Match Official, but his unlikely journey to the First Utility Super League began six years ago in Afghanistan.
Jack Smith Referee
The 27-year-old had successful playing career in the community game with Crosfields ARLFC before joining the Royal Marines in 2008, as Smith himself explains: “I joined the Royal Marines in 2008 and finished my eight months of training in early 2009.

“From there, I joined 40 Commando Royal Marines and started pre-deployment training for a six month operational tour in Afghanistan.

“I was deployed in March 2010 to Sangin, Helmand. “After over five months of seeing friends killed and injured, I myself was injured. “On 21 August 2010, I suffered a gunshot wound from a Taliban sharpshooter. I fell unconscious shortly after.

“I woke up a couple of weeks later in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where I spent a further few weeks.

“After coming out of a coma, I realised the extent of my injuries. The bullet had passed under my body armour, through my lower back, through my liver, through my diaphragm, up through my right lung and out of my chest, in doing so breaking ten ribs.”

Two years of intensive rehabilitation followed, before Smith was medically discharged from the forces due to the severity of damage to his lower back and lungs.

With his playing days now over, it was then he decided to look towards taking up the whistle. Jack Smith quickly became a leading Match Official in the community game. The 27-year-old has now taken charge of successive First Utility Super League matches

“Post-injury, it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to play again,” he said.

“So, in September 2012, I attended my first refereeing course and I haven’t looked back.”

Smith began by taking charge of junior matches before moving to the adult game.

He refereed the 2014 National Conference League Grand Final and took charge of his first professional match last year, before his First Utility Super League debut came at the KC Stadium as Hull FC took on Widnes last weekend.

Following his television debut on a Thursday night live TV game in June, Smith told Sunday Mirror Sport www.mirror.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/meet-new-super-league-ref-8167451#ICID=sharebar_twitter: “Up until the 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.

“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.

“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 are.”

Smith – an ambassador for injured service personnel charity On Course Foundation www.oncoursefoundation.com/who-we-are/ , added: “Even eight weeks ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be in this position.

“It’s a big ask of the RFL to put their faith in inexperienced referees and I’m grateful to them for the chance.”

Want to follow in Jack’s footsteps? Start your journey towards becoming a Rugby League Match Official in three easy steps by clicking www.rugby-league.com/get_involved/match_officials/becoming_a_match_official.