Dedicated Dan Smith celebrates his 300th league game for The Otters

Dan SmithWhen Dan Smith ran on to the pitch at Trebanos for Narberth’s championship league match tonight he will have become the first Narberth player to play in 300 matches since the commencement of the present leagues back in the 1990-91 season.

It marks the most amazing tale of loyalty, dedication and durability and it received the recognition it deserved from The Otters’ hardy band of supporters – although it should have occurred in their previous match at home to Ystrad Rhondda but the fixture against Trebanos was supposed to be match no 299 but it was postponed until now.

And we at are honoured to be able to reproduce club historian Ken Mathias’s superb tribute to Dan, safe in the thought that overtaking this magnificent tally of games for Narberth is unlikely to ever be surpassed!

15 years wonderful service

Dan's association with Narberth RFC began when he joined the Club at the start of the 2006-07 season and his tremendous commitment and loyalty fully deserves the recognition that everyone connected with Narberth RFC will afford him now. 

He was born and bred in Mynydd Y Garreg, Kidwelly, and from an early age was a very keen and enthusiastic rugby player, and so with his hero at the time Ray Gravell living nearby it was only natural as a youngster that Dan's ambition was to play for Llanelli. This he achieved firstly as a junior player then at senior level and will treasure forever the memories of playing at Stradey Park, his favourite ground.

Success at youth and senior level with Llanelli

At Youth level Dan's talent was recognised with several Wales Youth trials, but unfortunately these did not result in a Wales’ cap. However, he did play at the Millennium Stadium by representing Llanelli Youth in the Youth Cup Final when they were defeated by Cardiff in a very hard-fought game. Dan also played for the West Wales Under 21 side against their New Zealand counterparts at Broadacre, Dunvant only to lose the game by a couple of points.

He played one season with the Llanelli First XV, and in the absence of first choice hooker Robyn McBryde, injured on the Lions Tour, Dan played many more games than expected, but by doing so gained valuable experience. He still has great respect and gratitude to Robyn and Marcus Thomas, the two hookers at the club at the time who taught him so much.

Dan in the thick of things

Inspirational signing by coach Sean

Following that season he joined Carmarthen Quins and remained with them for four seasons before returning for the 2005-06 season to Llanelli. It was at the start of the following season that Dan, having been approached by Sean Gale the Narberth First team coach, agreed to join our Club, and what an important and significant signing it's turned out to be.

Dan made his league debut for Narberth in the first game of the 2006-07 season in a 11 - 22 away win at Llangennech. With him in the front row that day were Justin Hughes and Nathan Williams and this trio made up a formidable front row that would play together in all but one of the league games that season with Dan in fact playing in all 22 league games. At the end of that season Dan played in his first Senior Pembrokeshire Cup Final when Narberth defeated Whitland 29 - 16 at Haverfordwest, and since then he has gone on to play in a further two successful Cup Finals.

Since his debut, Dan over the following seasons, became a permanent fixture in the side and without doubt was one of the most consistent players in the team, and the fact that he reached 100 league games for our Club whilst only missing two games only emphasises that fact.

International recognition at last

In November, 2008 Dan's fine form brought him international recognition when he won his cap for the Wales Amateur team in their 14 - 27 victory away against Germany He considers this as his most memorable game, and quite rightly so, as his selection brought great pride and joy, not only to himself, but also to his family, who were experiencing a very sad and difficult period at this time.

The high standard of play that Dan produced week in week out over his first 100 league games for Narberth makes it difficult to pick out his most memorable performances, but to me none were better than his two Man of the Match performances in the 20 - 24 victory at Maesteg during the 2008 - 09 season and the home defeat to Bedwas in the Welsh Cup the following season.

Dan Looking for action

Amazing consistency as he rarely missed a match

The 2009-10 season started well for Dan, as he scored one of Narberth's three tries in the 19 - 18 defeat of Bridgend in the opening league game of the season at the Brewery Field. He was the only Narberth player to play in all 22 league games that season, a feat that he has achieved in another five seasons. It was during the 2010-11 season that Dan played his 100th league game for Narberth in the 22-81 victory away at Felinfoel having missed only two league games over the four and a bit seasons.

Again Dan was an ever present during the 2011 - 12 season, which saw him score two tries, one in the defeat of Tata Steel , and a crucial one in the 30 - 33 victory away at Whitland. His commitment to the Club was rightly recognised, when at the end of the season he was presented with the Club "Loyalty Award", a richly deserved honour.

Dan scoring a try

Playing through pain to be ‘Man of the Match’ and the supporters’ favourite player

But Dan's dedication to Narberth RFC has come at a cost as during the 2012 - 13 season, he began suffering from persistent neck and lower back pain, and although these injuries forced him to miss only three of the twenty six league games that season, in many of the other games that he played in he did so in a great deal of discomfort, and this at certain times has been the case to the present time.

The 2013 - 14 season inevitably saw Dan play in all 26 league games and during the course of it produced several excellent performances such as the 11 - 37 victory at Bonymaen in which he scored a try , and two Man of the Match performances in the two home wins against Pontypool and Tondu. But to me his performance against champions Ebbw Vale at home surpassed them all as his all round game on the day was quite outstanding and to score one of Narberth's tries in the 29 - 10 victory was a just reward for his fine effort.

During the course of the 2014 - 15 season Dan reached another milestone in his rugby career when on the 11th April 2015, in the home game against Cardiff Met he played his 200th league game for the Club, out of a possible 205 league games. A few weeks later he was a member of the Narberth team that beat Haverfordwest 31 - 0 in the Pembs Senior Cup Final at Pembroke Dock. Such had been his excellent form throughout the season that it was no surprise when he was voted the "Supporters’ Player of the Year".

Dan Smith in action against Carmarthen Athletic

More consistency– and yet more ‘Man of the Match’ awards in passing Chris Mac’s record

Dan's consistency over so many seasons has been quite amazing and this unbelievable record was carried on through the 2015 - 16 season in which he played in 24 of the 26 league games scoring two tries in his Man of the Match performances against Pontypool and Llanharan at home, and the following season he missed one game out of twenty two league games.

 On 23.09.17, in the 22 - 11 home victory against Rhydyfelin, Dan achieved another Club record when he played his 253 league game for the Club and in doing so broke the record of that fine former Narberth RFC scrum half Chris MacDonald who was the holder of having played the most league games for Narberth since the new Heineken Leagues began in the 1990 - 91 season.

Chris was probably one of the first to congratulate Dan on his achievement, and would acknowledge that if his record was to be broken then there was no other Narberth player more worthy of doing so than Dan. This new total was achieved in just over 11 seasons in which Dan had missed only 9 league games which is an incredible record especially bearing in mind the fact that he is a front row forward and the commitment required to maintain his form.

Dan Smith on the charge against Beddau

Another successful season but serious illness caused a temporary halt

The 2017 - 18 season was a very successful one for Narberth which saw them finish as runners up to champions Pontypool and it goes without saying that Dan had another fine season in which he missed only one of the twenty two league games and which saw him score three tries the most important coming in the 31 - 35 victory away at Tata Steel.

During the season Narberth signed Rhodri Owens, a fine hooker from Llangennech, to share the work load with Dan but unfortunately a third of the way into the 2018 - 19 season Dan was struck with a serious illness when he was diagnosed with blood clots which resulted in a collapsed lung and which would side-line him for four months until 23.03.19 when he played the last four games of the season off the bench.

 The 2019 - 20 season was to prove a very unusual one indeed with the WRU forced to terminate the season after16 league games due to the restrictions caused by coronavirus. It was also a strange one for Dan as although he started it well with a try in the first game in the 15 - 28 victory at Tata Steel he started only one of the sixteen league games featuring in the other fifteen but all off the bench.

Rugby did not resume following the restrictions until 14.08.21 in the form of the Championship Cup but just into the second game of the competition on 04.09.21 in the home victory of 70 - 19 against Ystalyfera Dan sustained an injury to his foot which initially did not seem too serious but it was to prove anything but as after a slow diagnosis it was established that he had broken a bone and this injury kept him out of the game until 22.01.22.

Having regained his fitness his return to the game came in the 10 - 3 away defeat to Bargoed and the following week he played well at home in the 17 - 29 defeat to Pontypool.

But for the virus restrictions and the two lengthy health interventions then Dan would have played his 300th league game for the Club quite some time ago, but possibly having overcome these handicaps will only make the occasion that much more satisfying when it arrives. It is nigh impossible in this short article to do justice to the commitment, dedication and effort that Dan Smith has given to Narberth RFC over the last sixteen seasons or so, but there's no real need to remind everyone at Narberth RFC of this fact as they are all already fully aware of his huge contribution to the success of Narberth RFC .

Dan Smith saying thanks

A typical tribute from Ken – and thanks from Dan

Of all the players that have joined Narberth over the years from outside the area then it's fair to say that Dan more than most is the player that has really taken the Club to his heart and this fact alone has endeared him to the club’s supporters.

Hopefully Dan will remain at Narberth RFC for the foreseeable future as his presence and experience would be such an asset to the younger players in the squad not just in games but at training sessions as well. So as we approach the end of another season I'm sure everyone at our Club would wish to thank Dan for his unstinting efforts and congratulate him on his fine achievement that he will shortly reach.

The last word goes to Dan who on becoming aware that this article was being produced wanted it made known of his gratitude to Jemma, his wife, who has always encouraged and supported him in his rugby career and without which he would not have achieved all that he has in the game. He also wished to thank Narberth RFC as a whole but especially the club’s supporters who have always encouraged and been there for him.

A typical hand-off by Dan Smith