A Bomber since she was 11 years old, Clea Smith took over the Club Captaincy in 1999 at just 20 years of age. Her contribution to the club’s journey from struggling easy beats to Premiers was enormous. We caught up with ‘Smitty’ at the recent 07/08 Premiership reunion.
Tell us how and when you got associated with the club.
I was lucky enough to be spotted in the playground by my Primary School Principle, Peter Bakker. Peter was the Aussie Women’s Coach and EMP Coach at the time – and he saw some potential in 11 year old me!
Tell us about the lead up to 07/08. What was the feel around the club, particularly given it was 18 years since the club tasted Premiership success in the top grade?
The feel around the Club was ‘it was time’. We’d come a really long way in 10 years – but we could (should!) have won in 05/06 or 06/07. Our belief was building.
At what stage of the season did you and the team feel that you can go all the way? What made you feel so?
We knew all season we had the team to go all the way. And we had the commitment of the whole group – the whole club. It felt all year that this was our year.
Was there a player who you would say was the 'find of the season' or someone who came of age?
It’s hard to go past Beamsy. She was still commuting from Tassy in those days. But she showed in that grand final she was capable of not only being a great player – but of being able to dominate a match with bat and ball. She has repeated that magic on the State, Aussie and World stage many times over since then. She is a true champion.
Describe the feeling when the team won the premiership and how much it meant to you.
Winning that premiership was more of a relief than anything. It definitely meant a lot to me and the 12 of us playing that day, but the part that sticks in my mind was the pride and joy on the faces of all the Bomber supporters.
You had already played a significant amount of cricket for the national side by then. How much do you credit that experience to your approach of the game back at club level?
EMP has fun in its DNA. And by the mid 2000’s we also had a wave of players that had State and International experience.
As a leader at the Club I felt it was my job to blend commitment and fun.
07/08 was the perfect recipe of ‘fun’ and ‘professional’. We trained and played hard, we had huge success, but we never lost that cheeky smile.
How do you think your time at the club helped you in your pursuit of playing for the state and the national sides?
EMP shaped the person I am in every way. My 21 years at the Club influenced my values, my behaviours, my skills and my belief. Passion, commitment, family, fun, leadership and teamwork are just some of the values instilled in me from a very young age. These were instrumental in the success I had for Victoria and Australia, but also in my professional life.
What have been your most cherished moments in red and black?
Meeting every one of the amazing people that call themselves a Bomber. I have learnt so much from them all.
Reflecting on over 100 years of Club memorabilia and realising that I am part of a really special and successful Club with so many champion players, coaches, volunteers and rich memories.
Is there an incident or an event that happened during your time at the club that continues to amuse you?
Being told off (very, very, very sternly) by Captain Raelee Thompson in my first 1’s game for not pulling up my socks and tucking myself in. I think I was about 15. I never did it again.