The former North Harbour and Auckland player, now based back in her native Northland, had initially retired from the game in early 2020 with a neck condition affecting her spine.
“I never thought this would be the outcome for me and I always had hoped that my injury was not the end,” said Smith.
In 2021 the prognosis of her condition improved and her doctor was optimistic about her being cleared to return to the game in the future. After the birth of her child last year, Smith was cleared of any residual health issues.
“A week after giving birth, I had a progress scan and was amazed and relieved that I was completely clear. I am fully fit and have no ill-effects.
“I always felt my condition forced me out of the game and that I hadn’t left the game on my own terms. I feel I have unfinished business on the field and hearing the doctor’s reports that I was cleared to play was amazing.”
Smith, a sergeant in the NZ Police, is excited about being involved in the first women’s professional competition in New Zealand for Sky Super Rugby Aupiki.
“I am really excited to be joining the Blues in the ground-breaking Sky Aupiki competition and giving 110 percent to the team in all aspects of the game.”
Nib Blues coach Willie Walker said he and the team are thrilled to have Smith back in the environment, and that she has passed all the necessary tests of her fitness.
“She is going to be a fantastic asset to the team both on and off the field, and we have welcomed her back with open arms.
“There’s absolutely no pressure on her at all and we will give her all the support she needs to be able to return to the game at this level,” said Walker.
Smith earned 27 caps for the Black Ferns after making her international debut in 2015 and was part of both the Rugby World Cup winning side in 2017 and the Women’s Super Series in 2019.
The Northlander originally played representative level netball before picking up her first rugby ball at 2014. The following year she switched her full focus to rugby and joined the Black Ferns that year.
Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore is a huge supporter of the Northland lock.
“Charmaine is a talented all-round athlete and an example of how sporting talent can transfer between codes. She is a very determined student of rugby, always analysing and figuring out how she can improve. As a coach those are the kind of attributes you want in a player.
“She made a huge contribution to the legacy of the Black Ferns and she can be enormously proud of her rugby career,” Moore said at the time.
Smith said she is delighted that there is this opportunity for women in the game, and hopes it can develop to a wider professional environment.
“It is so exciting to be part of the nib Blues and I hope I can make a positive contribution.”