ILIndoor Top 50: Rory Smith #47

Rory Smith has a reputation as a fighter, but he's taken his defensive skills to a new level. (Photo: John McCabe)
Rory Smith has a reputation as a fighter, but he's taken his defensive skills to a new level. (Photo: John McCabe)

Rory Smith is not afraid to drop the gloves. But he’s not afraid to get better, either. Long known for his ability to send messages with his fists, Smith has elevated his game to another level to the point where he’s a defender first, enforcer second. Oh, he’ll still dance if you send the invite. He showed that much with the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth last winter and the Six Nations Chiefs this summer. But there’s a new level of respect for Smith and his ability to D it up, especially with the man-down unit where his agility and ability to read and anticipate has put him squarely in the conversation about elite defenders in the game of lacrosse.

For his part, Smith’s fighting ability will long overshadow much of the defensive work he’s been doing, and has yet to do. That’s the nature of the game because fighting is a part that fans cheer for and remember. He was part of the big line brawl in Buffalo last winter when he and the Mammoth mucked it up with the Bandits. And Smith went toe-to-toe with Victoria’s Tory Gardner earlier this month at the Mann Cup.

But if you look beyond the flying fists, you’ll see a defender who has moved beyond using intimidation only. You’ll see a Smith who squares up to shut down the ball carrier. You’ll see a Smith who communicates with teammates, slides to fill a gap while swinging a mighty check to make that offensive player pay.

And this winter, he’ll bring that game to Buffalo as part of a Bandits team that swung a trade for Smith to beef up their back end. The Bandits certainly don’t need much help when it comes to the intimidation factor. But having Smith coming out the back door will add to that, along with adding a defender who knows how to get the job done.

ILIndoor’s take

“I love how Smith has evolved his game. Sure, we were all entertained by his fights but at the end of the day, fights don’t win championships. They still have their place in the game, but Smith has worked hard to get beyond that and earn respect for his lacrosse abilities, not just fighting.” – Bob Chavez

“Like Jesse Gamble, Rory Smith was part of the stingy defense of the Mann Cup Champion Six Nations Chiefs. Unlike Gamble, Smith makes this list with his ability to intimidate and inflict pain on his opponents. Smith’s ability to goon it up is overhyped and Smith’s lacrosse talents are underrated. Rory is a man-down specialist and is very agile giving him coverage ability on other teams’ top shooters. Rory took a step back in Colorado last year but something tells me Buffalo will be the perfect fit for Smith and he will be back bringing his A-game on a nightly basis.” – Marty O’Neill

“Smith’s career arc is a fascinating one. He went from being a thug to becoming a solid positional defender who still punishes opponents. No one wants to square off against him, especially in the summer when he gets to use a wooden stick, with which he’s quite adept at handling the ball.” – Stephen Stamp

Top 50

No. 50: Aaron Bold
No. 49: Brad Self
No. 48: Jesse Gamble

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