A centreman during his career with West Adelaide as well as during the early part of his VFL stint with Geelong, Bernie Smith is remembered as one of the greatest back pockets in the history of the game. Moved to the back pocket by coach Reg Hickey in 1951 he went on to win both the club best and fairest award and the Brownlow Medal that same season, while for good measure he was among the Cats' best in their grand final defeat of Essendon.
Smith was ideally suited to a back pocket because he was pacy, had good ground skills, marked well, was always cool under pressure, and had superb judgement. Opposition coaches came to view him as Geelong's first line of attack, and in what was a virtually unprecedented move for the times he was often subjected to what would now be called tagging.
Bernie Smith played 55 games with West Adelaide winning a best and fairest award in that club's premiership year of 1947. He won 2 best and fairest trophies during 183 games with Geelong, played in 2 premiership sides, and was club captain for part of 1950 and the whole of 1954.