Smith opens up on Tokyo nightmare
WALLABY great George Smith has spoken for the first time about being held in isolation for 20 days in a Tokyo police cell while he fought for his freedom and his reputation.
The 37-year-old veteran is anxious for the bizarre episode not to define the final stages of a decorated career that will be relaunched on Saturday for his new Brisbane club Brothers against Easts at Bottomley Park.
Smith has gone through four months of intense rehabilitation since a polycarbonate replacement was fitted during major disc surgery to his back last December, which may get him back in a Queensland Reds jersey in a week.
His first appearance in club rugby for a decade, while 70-Test Wallaby Quade Cooper plays across town for Souths at Courtney Oval, is a red-letter day for Premier Rugby.
Intrigue has swirled around Smith since New Year's Eve and exactly what happened at the end of a night out drinking in Tokyo that ended in a police cell.
The Japanese prosecutor indicated Smith had no case to answer over allegations of failing to pay a fare and pushing a 58-year-old taxi driver.
Smith was released without charge but no one in Australia can believe the process meant he spent most of January in a cell or that only a handful of people knew.
"Look, it was a police station cell for 20 days. I had access to my family (by phone) and my wife travelled over," Smith said when pressed on something he is still uncomfortable with talking about.
"It is what it is. I've spent plenty of seasons over there so I knew it was important I allowed the Japanese judicial system to go its full course.
"It's very different to the Australian system and there were frustrating days but I knew I had to be patient.
"The main thing was I was pretty confident there would be no case to answer and most important of all that proved to be true with no charges."
His Japanese club Suntory split with Smith over it because "respect" is so prized in Japanese culture and he was fined by the Queensland Rugby Union over his failure to inform of his arrest and time in police custody.
"Yes, an incident happened but there were a lot of inconsistencies to how it was portrayed," Smith said.
Smith had major back surgery just three weeks before the drama so he was closer to needing a walking stick than running away to escape a taxi fare, as one erroneous report suggested.
"There are details which have to be kept confidential but my new disc was still fusing with vertebrae so I was no chance of jogging (away) anywhere," Smith said.
"I'm disappointed I brought negative publicity on my two clubs (Suntory and the Reds) and I was very respectful to the team I was involved within in Japan and am fine with their decision.
"For me, this is not a redemption return but very much a return from injury because my rugby is very separate to my personal life.
"Life's good...I've moved on."
It would be hard for Smith to have this in the public domain again because he has been such a private figure over 19 years at the top, but it had to be aired for everyone to move on.
He's excited about his Brothers outing.
"I haven't played a club game for perhaps 10 years so I'm looking forward to it at a club with the history that Brothers has and to do my bit for grassroots, which is where I started," Smith said.
"When you see names like that of my old mate David Croft, "Buddha" Handy, Sean Hardman and Tony Shaw on the dressing room wall at the club you realise the history.
"I'm too new to have my own bench place in the dressing room. I'm still on the floor with the kit."