It started as a small story in a Sunday newspaper – a prison fight between two of Sydney’s most fearsome characters that in the decades since has entered criminal folklore.
Neddy Smith and Tom Domican famously came to blows in Long Bay in what proved to be a one-sided contest, but details of the legendary bout have become clouded over time.
Following Smith’s death aged 76 in Long Bay’s hospital last Wednesday, Daily Mail Australia has gone back to his published version of the event and spoken to Domican about the jail yard fight.
The venue was a yard outside 6 wing of the Long Bay complex’s Central Industrial Prison and the fixture took place about 1.30pm on Friday, May 3, 1991.
Smith was then 46, weighed about 114kg (18st) and stood 198cm (6’5″). Domican was 48, about 60kg (9st 7lb) and 175cm (5’9″). Both were right-handed with an orthodox stance.
Former garbage collector Tom Domican has spoken of his famous fight with Neddy Smith at Sydney’s Long Bay jail complex after the notorious gangster died in prison aged 76. The pair slugged it out in a yard outside C Wing in the Central Industrial Prison on May 3, 1991
Smith was then 46, weighed about 114kg (18st) and stood 198cm (6’5″). Domican was 48, about 60kg (9st 7lb) and 175cm (5’9″). Both were right-handed with an orthodox stance. Smith is pictured (right) in prison with Graham ‘Abo’ Henry who witnessed the fight
It started as a small story in a Sunday newspaper – a prison fight between two of Sydney’s most fearsome characters – that in the decades since has entered criminal folklore. There has been no dispute about the winner of the bout. Long Bay jail is pictured
Domican, a fitness fanatic, had been transferred to Long Bay from Goulburn where he lost about 10kg sitting in solitary confinement for the previous two years and ten months.
In the 1980s he was charged with one murder, one attempted murder and five conspiracies to murder but was cleared of every alleged offence.
Smith, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was serving a sentence for killing a tow truck driver and four years later would be charged with seven other 1980s murders, six of which he would beat.
Smith wrote in his autobiography Neddy he had met Domican a few times when he arrived at Long Bay but did not really know him and ‘wanted nothing to do with the man’.
At the time, Smith’s sometime partner in crime Graham ‘Abo’ Henry was also in the Central Industrial Prison but their friendship was not as close as it once was.
Henry told Domican that Smith had arranged a cell for him in the prison but the newcomer had immediately declined the offer by saying ‘I don’t mix with dogs’.
Smith had been run down outside the Iron Duke Hotel at Alexandria in April 1986 and Domican believed Smith had told police he was the driver when everyone, including Smith, knew it was the boxer Terry Ball.
‘That’s what started it.’ the now 80-year-old Domican said. ‘That’s what it was about.’
Domican, a fitness fanatic, had been transferred to Long Bay from Goulburn where he had lost about 10kg while sitting in solitary confinement. In the 1980s he was charged with one murder, one attempted murder and five conspiracies to murder but was cleared of every count
Smith, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was serving a sentence for killing a tow truck driver and four years later would be charged with seven other 1980s murders, six of which he would beat. He is pictured on his wedding day at Long Bay jail in 1980
After lunch on the day of the fight Henry told Smith about Domican’s claim that he was a police informant, asking Smith not to repeat what he had said.
According to Smith, he immediately went looking for Domican who saw him coming and stood his ground.
‘As I got near him I couldn’t contain myself: “Hey, you f***king big-mouthed c***, get over here. I want to talk to you”,’ Smith wrote in his book.
‘He walked straight towards me, snarling. We met in the middle of the square and we were both ready to go on with it. Abo stood there waiting to see what happened.’
Smith wrote that regardless of how Domican responded he was going to fight him. ‘I didn’t like him anyway, and it was about time we saw just how good he was.’
‘Tom realised it was on no matter what he said. I just wanted to prove to myself and everyone that I had not told on anyone – and that Tom wasn’t as thought as everyone thought he was.’
Smith wanted to be locked in a cell with Domican to sort out their differences but Domican was not going to let that happen and wanted to setting things in the gym.
‘He said, “No, come to my cell”, but you don’t follow a lion into its den,’ Domican said. ‘I’m not an idiot – I knew he’probably had a knife in his cell.’
Domican believed Smith had accused him of running down the armed robber and drug dealer outside the Iron Duke Hotel at Alexandria in April 1986. Everyone, including Smith, knew the driver was the boxer Terry Ball. Domican is pictured in 2019
‘He kept saying to me, “Are you afraid of fighting me?” and I said, “Mate, I’ll never be afraid to fight a f***in’ mug like you”.’
Smith wrote in his book: ‘As we walked to the wing I was getting hyped up. I told myself that Tom was not coming out of the cell alive. Rage was building inside my guts.’
When the pair got to the gate leading to C wing, according to Smith, Domican said: ‘No way am I going in the cell. Let’s do it here.’
Domican said he called out ‘gate up’ to a prison officer to have the gate opened – ‘and that was it.’
Smith was well-known as a ‘king hit’ merchant – a fighter who got the first punch in without warning – according to Domican, but he he still wasn’t expecting what came next.
‘I turned my head around and when I turned back, I didn’t see it coming,’ Domican said. ‘I turned straight into a right cross. It was a good king hit, I’ll give it to him.’
Smith wanted to be locked in a cell with Domican to sort out their differences but Domican was not going to let that happen and wanted to setting things in the gym. In the end, they fought in a prison yard
Domican said the first ‘epic punch’ was perfectly thrown and his knees had buckled but he stayed on his feet. ‘I thought to myself, this c*** can’t punch,’ he said.
‘I was so shocked because the man had a reputation as being a really hard hitter and it was nothing but bull***.
‘In actual fact, if you read what was written in the papers and you read what was written in his book, he knocked me down seven times and couldn’t knock me out.’
Domican was trying to recall events from three decades earlier but Smith had heard so many versions of what happened he no longer had a clear recollection even after a couple of years.
‘I was standing with my back to him at the gate and the last thing that I can clearly remember is spinning around and knocking Tom flying,’ he wrote.
‘He hit the ground with a thud. The rest is a bit of a blank. All I know is that he kept getting up and I kept knocking him back down.’
Domican thought the fight lasted ten or 12 minutes. ‘He knocked me down six or seven times after a magnificent king hit,’ he said.
‘I got a couple of punches in. I got one kick in – it was a beautiful spinning kick. If it had have connected it would have took his head clean off his shoulders.
‘But what happened was Neddy was so tall it was easy for him to put his hand out and block it – he had arms like orangutans – and that was it.
‘I got a couple of punches, a couple of kicks in, and then he starts kicking me. He kept falling over every time he kicked me. Not falling, but almost falling.
‘I thought, “F***, it must be his Parkinson’s disease.’
Domican has previously objected to his brief portrayal in the award-winning television series Blue Murder which dramatised the exploits of Neddy Smith, Roger Rogerson and other crooks. Tony Martin is pictured playing Smith in Blue Murder
In Henry’s version, Smith’s first punch put Domican down ‘like Bambi on ice’ but the blow had little power in it.
‘Every time Ned hit him his fist collapsed because of the Parkinson’s,’ he has said.
Henry has said while Smith was not a noted big puncher he was awkward to fight because of his unusually long arms, particularly between the elbows and wrists.
He agreed if Domican’s kick had hit its mark it might have been all over for Smith. In the end, Smith, Domican and Henry described the fight as no contest.
‘After about eight knockdowns he failed to get up,’ Smith wrote of Domican. ‘He never hit me once. He kicked me once, but that was the extent of it.
‘There have been plenty of rumours about what happened that day. Tom said I king-hit him. Well, I did throw the first punch. Someone has to, don’t they?’
Smith claimed Domican was taken to the hospital to be ‘patched up’ but Domican said he suffered only minor injuries and was taken to the prison’s small medical clinic.
Smith claimed Domican was taken to the hospital to be ‘patched up’ but Domican said he suffered only minor injuries and was taken to the prison’s small medical clinic
‘All I got out of it was a little cut over the eye,’ he said. ‘A little tiny cut. No broken nose, no broken ribs, no broken nothing. Two stitches I got in my right eye.
‘You know what two stitches is? It’s less than a half-inch cut. It’s nothing and you’ll do it with one punch but it took him ten minutes.
‘I didn’t even have a sore rib. One thing I did do was I did do a lot of sit-ups, so I was lucky when he ripped me up the guts otherwise I might have went down ten times.
‘At the end of the day, even the screw in the clinic said to me, “Good job Tom, you weren’t in good nick.
‘He said, “He knocked you down six or seven times Tom, all you got was that little cut over your eye”.
‘I said, “Mate, do you want the truth? The bloke couldn’t knock snow off a rope”.’
Domican said it had been overlooked that Smith also had the benefit of regular training and a better diet. ‘I was half his weight and half his size,’ he said.
Domican said it had been overlooked that Smith also had the benefit of regular training and a better diet. ‘I was half his weight and half his size,’ he said. Smith is pictured in prison
‘I’d just come out of solitary confinement, eating s***, where he was eating steaks and everything else.
‘At the end of the day, as I said to the screw, look at the weight difference, you just couldn’t do anything. The bloke’s ten stone heavier and a foot taller. It speaks for itself.
‘He should have knocked me out with the first punch because he really and truly laid the first one on. He couldn’t knock me out.’
Henry was jokingly compared to one of Australia’s best-known boxing promoters after the Smith v Domican fight.
‘The next day they were all calling me Bill Mordey because I’d promoted this heavyweight bout,’ he has said.
Domican said he did not want to speak disparagingly of Smith a week after his death in the jail where they duked it out all those years ago.
‘I wouldn’t bag the bloke,’ he said. ‘There’s an old saying, you never speak ill of the dead. At the end of the day there’s a lot worse out there than him.’
The many trials of Tom Domican
Tom Domican was charged with one murder, one attempted murder and five conspiracies to murder in the 1980s but was cleared of every alleged offence
Dublin-born Domican is a former garbage collector and onetime inner-city Labor Party numbers man who has been heavily involved in the construction industry.
He was charged with one murder, one attempted murder and five conspiracies to murder in the 1980s but was cleared of every alleged offence.
Many of those prosecutions had relied on the word of discredited prison informers seeking benefit for themselves.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption later issued a scathing report about using such witnesses in criminal trials.
Domican has previously objected to his brief portrayal in the award-winning television series Blue Murder which dramatised the exploits of Neddy Smith, Roger Rogerson and other crooks.
Graham ‘Abo’ Henry, who also featured in Blue Murder as a serious criminal of that time, wrote about Domican in his own book Abo: A Treacherous Life.
‘Everyone involved in major crime gangs in Sydney knew each other,’ Henry wrote.
‘But nobody knew Domican… He was not a gangster.’
Domican was charged with murdering hitman Chris Flannery, who disappeared from his city apartment in May 1985, and his attempted murder at Arncliffe in January that year.
He was accused of firing about 30 rounds from an Armalite rifle at Flannery while he stood in his driveway with his wife and daughter.
The murder charge was dismissed at committal but a jury found him guilty of attempted murder and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Domican successfully appealed the attempted murder conviction in the High Court but by the time he was released had served about five and a half years.
While behind bars Domican was charged with conspiring to murder Sayers in 1983-1985 and Ron Woodham, who went on to become Corrective Services commissioner in 1987-1988.
He was also charged with have conspired to murder Flannery’s widow Kath in 1985, Megan Kalajzich’s killer Bill Vandenberg in 1986 and policeman turned prisoner Max Gudgeon the same year.
Domican was eventually cleared of all those charges.
[Sayers was shot dead outside his home at Bronte in 1985. Vandeberg hanged himself in prison in 1988].