Nick to have lasting rugby league legacy

Nick is to be remembered by the sport of rugby league with the winners of the BARLA U14 National Youth & Junior Cup receiving The Nick Smith Trophy.

A legend of amateur rugby league, Nick played with Siddal from the age of eight making 400 appearances for the team. He played professionally when younger with both Leeds Rhinos Academy and Sheffield Eagles before embarking on a career as an accountant.

The Barla U14 National Youth & Junior Cup was won in 2018 by Siddal and the new trophy was presented to the winning team by Nick’s wife Rachel on Saturday (15 December).

Rachel presenting The Nick Smith Trophy to U14’s captain Harvey Oldroyd

Sue Taylor, BARLA Chair, said:

“BARLA is delighted to be linking up with the Nick Smith Foundation. One of the three aims of the charity is to get involved with community and amateur rugby league, in the same way that Nick from the age of eight when he joined his beloved Siddal ARLFC – one of the giants of the amateur game.”

Current players and coaches along with former teammates of Nick have been fundraising at Siddal over the past year. The Club have now donated £2,000 to the charity to support its work.

Siddal’s Shaun Garrod, who played alongside Nick, said:

“Nick was a huge part of Siddal and Siddal was a huge part of Nick. That’s why we want to do as much as we can to support the efforts to remember him and we hope this £2,000 donation makes a big difference to the charity’s aims. The money has been raised from a number of events, including an Elvis Night and an evening busking through Sowerby Bridge, and we have many more planned for 2019.”

Rachel with the U14 coaching team of Paul Hirst, Ben Jackson & Steve Copley

Stephen Naylor, Chair of The Nick Smith Foundation, said:

“Siddal was a huge part of Nick’s life from a young age and he was incredibly proud to be part of the club. We are hugely grateful for the support of everyone there over the past year, both personally and for their support of the charity in Nick’s name.

“We have also been touched by the support of the wider rugby league community. Rugby league is a family – with fierce competition on the pitch but kindness and compassion off it, and since Nick’s diagnosis and death this has been demonstrated time after time. The renaming of the U14 Cup as The Nick Smith Trophy is something we, Nick’s family, are incredibly proud of.

“We are determined to give something back to the sport Nick loved which is why one of our aims is to ensure more young people are able to take up rugby league and play, whether for fun or professionally. We’re looking forward to doing more work on this objective in the year ahead.”

Rachel nominated for Yorkshire Choice Award

We need your help!

We’re delighted to say Rachel has been nominated as Inspirational Individual of the Year in the Yorkshire Choice Awards 2019.

As well as spending the past year dealing with her grief and supporting Hadyn and Georgia through their loss, Rachel’s set up the charity and we’ve already raised tens of thousands of pounds for our three aims.

Stephen Naylor, Chair of The Nick Smith Foundation – and Rachel’s brother-in-law, said:

“Rachel certainly is inspirational so it is fitting she has been nominated for this award. The past year has been full of tears and torment, yet she has put so much effort into the charity and ensuring her beloved Nick has a lasting legacy.

“She will hate the attention, but I hope everyone across Calderdale will join with me in voting for Rachel so she knows how much she is loved and supported after the hardest 12 months imaginable.”

Votes for Rachel can be cast at until 1st March. The awards are handed out in April.

Busking for Smudger

Some of Nick’s friends are organising a night of music, beer and fun through Sowerby Bridge on Saturday, 1st December from 4pm until late to support us.

We would love you to join us at one or all of them to support them and support us. Here’s the timetable for the evening:

4pm – The Garden Bar at Gabriel’s
5pm – The Blind Pig
6pm – Bar Francisca
7pm – The Bull on the Bridge Hotel & Sowerby Taps
8pm – The Loose Goose

Thank you to all the pubs and bars who are letting us perform and fundraise.

Over £1,700 raised at The Shay

Thank you to Halifax RLFC fans and Leeds Rhinos fans who donated over £1,700 to the charity during a collection at the game between the two sides at The Shay on Sunday, 23 September.

Thank you also for the amazing team, including many from Siddal ARLFC, who manned the buckets and collection tins – including Harvey and Ben.

Thank you – from Rachel

The Great North Run was a challenge – in so many ways. The 9th of September. A day from last year I wanted to forget, another horrendous milestone to face.

The run was tough but what an experience! The atmosphere and crowd were amazing. My friend Bob, who also ran the Great North Run this year, described it to me as ‘northern hospitality at its best’. And he wasn’t wrong there. Where else in the world would you find people on the street, handing out jelly babies, ice pops, free beer and even roast potatoes. Children holding up their hands for high fives and people of all ages cheering your name and clapping you on.

Doing those 13.1 miles, I thought about everyone at home willing me on too. All the people donating to the charity supporting me in the Great North Run and all the lovely and encouraging messages. I thought about the other runners competing that day, reading the messages on their t-shirts of loved ones they had lost who were inspiring them on. Running through their pain and heartache.

I thought about Nick. I thought how I was seeing and experiencing similar things to when he had tread this path during his Great North run two years previously, in doing so I felt him close.

It was hard to not let the emotion of the day, the memories of the last year take over. I think if I had I would have crumbled and not been able to carry on.

There were times when my body was willing me to stop, particularly around the 8 mile mark and then around 11 ½ miles but I thought of Nick, about those 101 days he endured dying with MND. How he never complained, how he got on with it and how he did so with such tremendous courage and strength. I dug deep and kept going, my friend Sarah sticking right beside me every single step of the way.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me, to each and every one of you who has reached out, who has messaged me and who has offered words of encouragement and support over this weekend.

We smashed it…for Smudger…for my husband…for Nick. I hope I did him proud.


Rachel completes the Great North Run

Nick’s wife Rachel, our charity Patron, has completed The Great North Run in a time of 2hours 31minutes.

An amazing achievement on the one year anniversary of Nick’s diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease and nine months after his death.

She was running alongside her friend Sarah who supported her throughout the 13.1 miles.

Ahead of the big day, Rachel was on BBC Radio Leeds and live on the BBC Look North sofa to talk about the race and the charity.

We’re so incredibly proud of Rachel.

You can still donate here >>

Smudger U7s Tournament at Siddal ARLFC

The first Smudger U7s Tournament has taken place at Siddal ARLFC today (Sunday 2 September) with over 70 children from four teams taking part.

Youngsters from Drighlington ARLFC, Illingworth ARLFC, Siddal ARLFC and Underbank Rangers came together for the event which will be held annually in memory of Nick. Each of the players received a ball, sponsored by ADD Express Ltd, and Smudger’s Top Tips. While Leeds Rhino’s legend Ronnie Rhino also joined us.

Parents, family and friends of the players, members of the Siddal rugby family and the wider rugby league community were at the event. As was Nick’s family – including his wife Rachel, children Hadyn and Georgia, mum Viv, sister Helen and grandparents Jim and Maura. Nick’s son Hadyn, aged six, was part of the event playing in the Siddal Tykes team.

One of our objectives as a charity is supporting amateur rugby league – it played such a significant part in Nick’s life from childhood to adulthood and we know that he would be both incredibly proud and humbled that an event such as this was taking place in his memory and his name.

Thank you to all the organisers of the event, all the children and families who took part and everyone else who supported it – by donating, buying cakes, drinks or sandwiches or simply being there #ForSmudger.

Rachel to take Nicks Great North Run place

The Great North Run have released the press release below about Rachel taking part in this year’s race:

A woman whose husband ran the Great North Run before being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a year later is set to take on the half marathon in his memory after he tragically died from the condition aged just 38.

Rachel Smith, from Halifax, watched as her husband Nick crossed the Great North Run finish line in 2016, having completed his first half marathon.

Following his success, Nick signed up to take on the event the next year but deferred his place after he began to feel unwell, suffering from voice problems and feeling tired.

After he followed this up with tests, he was given the devastating diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, which has no known cure.

Tragically, Nick, father to the couple’s two children Hadyn, six, and Georgia, three, passed away in December, 101 days after his diagnosis.

He was a talented rugby league player, joining the Leeds Rhinos Academy and Sheffield Eagles before captaining leading amateur side Siddal alongside a career as a management accountant.

Before Nick was diagnosed, the family didn’t know much about MND and after being given the awful news, they struggled with the lack of support that was available in their region.

After her husband’s death, Rachel and Nick’s brother-in-law Stephen, decided to set up a charity in Nick’s name to keep his memory alive, raise awareness of the condition and support the research going into finding a cure.

The Nick Smith Foundation has since gained registered charity status and Rachel decided a fitting tribute would be to run in Nick’s place. The event on Sunday 9 September will mark one year to the day of Nick’s diagnosis.

Rachel, 37, said: “Nothing will ever be able to take away the pain of Nick’s death, the months since his diagnosis and the weeks after he lost his short battle with Motor Neurone Disease were the hardest thing you could imagine.

“We had no idea what Motor Neurone Disease even was when he was diagnosed and didn’t know how hugely it would affect our family.

“Nick was fit and active and had always wanted to run a half marathon so we were so proud as we watched him cross the finish line of the Great North Run.

“Anyone who knew him was in no doubt of how fit and active he was. He really wanted to take part in the run again to beat his time.

“He spoke so highly of his experience and got a place in the ballot the next year. Then he started to feel unwell and then we got the devastating diagnosis.

“We want to do more to raise awareness about the disease, to support more research into finding a cure and also ensure there is more support for those diagnosed and their families as we felt we had no one to turn to for advice.

“From the day Nick got his diagnosis, time moved far too quickly.

“We never could have imagined that I would be without a husband and my children without their daddy just 101 days later.”

Rachel, who works in public health, is set to take on this year’s Simplyhealth Great North Run, supported by her friend Sarah.

The world’s biggest half marathon features 57,000 participants making the 13.1 mile journey from Newcastle to South Shields every year, whatever their pace or motivation.

Rachel added: “Through the charity I have a new focus as we’d like to look at what support there is for MND families who have young children, what could be done together with families to create memories.

“It really shouldn’t be me running the Simplyhealth Great North Run this year, it should be Nick and he should be smashing his previous time as he promised and I know he would do. But instead I have his place to honour him by running in his memory.

“I would in no way class myself as a keen runner but thankfully my friend Sarah will also be running alongside me on what is going to be a physically challenging and really emotional day.

“I will be carrying Nick with me in my heart to get me through the 13.1 miles and I am determined to do my best for him.”

You can sponsor Rachel here >>

‘We have high ambitions, but they need to be high to be a fitting legacy to Nick’

By Rachel Smith
Nick’s Wife & Charity Patron

On Friday, we formally launched our charity in Nick’s memory during a particularly poignant week for me.

21 years ago last week, Nick and I met. And life changed forever. Even now when I think of that night I get butterflies.

But then, six months ago, life once again changed forever – but in a very different way, and it was a forever that I never wanted to face. Nick died, aged just 38, in December last year just 101 days after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The future Nick and I envisaged for us, dreamed about for our children Hadyn and Georgia, was shattered by those three little letters – MND.

This time last year, we didn’t know anything about MND, let alone think it would ever impact our family. But it has, and the impact has been devastating.

I have lost my best friend, my soulmate. Hadyn and Georgia have lost their amazing daddy.

Nick was extraordinary, he was a leader, a captain, a gentle man on and off the rugby pitch.

That is why I am proud to be launching his charity, in his name – The Nick Smith Foundation. A way of Nick still being a leader, still being extraordinary and still helping others out.

Through the charity we want to remember Nick’s life and keep his spirit alive.

We want to do more to raise awareness of this cruel disease, to support more research into finding a cure and to support other families who have been given an MND diagnosis.

We want there to be support for families who have to deal with MND in their lives.

We want to support young children on their path into rugby league so they join the rugby league family.

And, we want to support children who have been bereaved at a young age.

I look at Hadyn and Georgia and I long so much to be able to turn back the clock, to have one more day with Nick, to capture in his words, his life story, his hopes and dreams for our babies’ futures. From the day Nick got his diagnosis, time for us moved far too quickly and now coping afterwards and supporting our children is my focus.

As I’ve tried to navigate the system of child mental health, bereavement support through play therapy, art therapy, support for parents, I’ve found very little to access.

Through the charity we’d like to look at what support there is for MND families who have young children. We need to look at pre-bereavement – what could be done together with families to capture memories and create memories with those who receive a terminal diagnosis that can then be accessible to support children in their grief.

We have high ambitions, but they need to be high to be a fitting legacy to Nick. I will love him forever, I will miss him forever, I will work to help change lives forever in Nick’s memory and in Nick’s name.

Please support us if you can.