The life and legacy of the Riverina’s legendary cricketing mentor Warren ‘Wazza’ Smith is being celebrated at the Museum of the Riverina’s latest exhibition.
Wazza: A Local Legend takes a look at more than 50 years of achievements by Mr Smith’s, whom is described as an “irrepressible coach and mentor...who has imparted the fundamentals of cricket and some important life lessons too”.
At a launch event today, Mr Smith said it was a “very emotional” occasion.
“I’m just blown away because I do it for the love [of the game], my family and the fellas that I’ve coached,” he said.
“It [exhibition] is mainly for the kids and for Wagga, the City of Good Sports.
It [exhibition] is mainly for the kids and for Wagga, the City of Good Sports.Warren 'Wazza' Smith
“I’ve always loved this city of Wagga.”
Mr Smith was key in developing a number of national test players, including Michael Slater, and had influence on international players.
"Players like Dominic Thornely, Michael Slater and Phillip Hughes could play, I didn’t have to coach,” he said.
“Anyone could’ve coached them, but I’ve said there are two things I work on: people and life skills.
“I call them the one percent because life is too short – and that’s how I try to coach.”
The exhibition also has his inventions – including hand-stitched, hand-welded training aides – to help kids train in less-than-ideal conditions.
There are also rare objects like a bat from the notorious ‘Bodyline’ series.
Mr Smith received that bat from Stan Sly, whom he described as “the greatest cricketer to have ever come out of Wagga”..
“I left school when I was 13 and he gave me that bat,” Mr Smith said.
He also cited his Order of Australia Medal and having lunch with Sir Donald Bradman in 1989 as other highlights of his life.
“I never expected that [OAM] – I thought it was one of my mates having fun,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky to have travelled the world to coach.”
As for the game today, he said “a couple of boys have been a bit naughty” when it came to the men’s team.
“But the girls’ cricket’s really snapped on, it has,” he said.
Asked about what he hoped attendees would gain from the exhibition, Mr Smith said it was for them know what they should continue learning in their careers and life.
“You can never stop learning – if I don’t learn every day, what’s the use of living?” he said.
“You’ll never have it perfect, the best batsman ever lived missed out by four runs,” he said.
He thanked curator Catherine Spreitzer for collating the pieces over three years.
“She’s a special lady,” he said.
“She didn’t know much about cricket but I take my hat off to her.”
Curator gains insight into legend
Ms Spreitzer said her highlights included the many stories and good memories in the three years of collection.
“We had some laughs and over that time,” she said.
“I was jotting things down and developing ideas and threading a story through 50 really full years.
“He’s touched so many people and he’s had such a big influence on players.
“So it’s a long history, a lot of stories, a lot of passion and a lot of people.”
Ms Spreitzer said she now has an appreciation for the game after not knowing anything about it.
“It was a baptism of fire,” she said.
“Over the time we spent together, I did learn a lot.”
The exhibition also explores “our collective obsession with sport, unearthing some remarkable moments from the history of Wagga”.
The exhibition starts December 8 and finishes on February 17 next year.
While you’re with us, did you know that you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each day at 6am from The Daily Advertiser? To make sure you’re up to date with all the Wagga news, sign up here.