TAYLOR Smith quite literally made the jump into footy after dedicating a large portion of her life to heptathlons. Only having played footy for a short amount of time, Smith is still learning all the intricacies of the sport and transitioning away from her previous life of athletics.
“I transitioned from athletics – I was a heptathlete,” Smith said. “I represented Queensland in the heptathlon a couple of years ago and then after that I fell into the injury trap. “Had a year off and the played a school footy game and found myself scattered from there.”.
The training schedule for heptathlons was highly demanding with the budding footballer committed to certain hours and days to preparing for her events in order to fine tune her skills.
“So it’s [heptathlons] lots of training and pretty much six days a week so you kind of had to adjust your training sessions to all the different events,” Smith said. “You wouldn’t just come on Monday and say I’m doing hurdling, it’s come on a Monday do a half hour warm-up, do a bit of high jump in that time, come over to the hurdles do the hurdles, maybe go over and do some shot put and that’s the end of your night. “Then come back Tuesday long jump, javelin, a bit of 800 at the end of that. “It’s a very demanding schedule.”
The change from heptathlons to footy was big for Smith both on and off the field with Smith having to get accustomed to the different training requirements and new environment. Smith was used to a relatively flexible, but demanding training schedule with her heptathlon commitments compared to a more physically demanding football regiment.
“Its honestly just been as demanding but in a completely different way,” Smith said. “So athletics was a little bit more of take your time, walk between your events and stuff but you come to footy and your two hours is very intense you warm-up, you work hard, you cool down you go home and that two hours is very structured. “A little bit more free-flowing through the athletics I feel.”
The footy environment is another major change for Smith who noted how it is more inclusive and has that family vibe as opposed to athletics.
“I think the community around the football environment is outstanding and the support staff we have is just unreal,” Smith said. “But in the football environment you’ve got your team around you 24/7 especially on trips like this (Under-18 Championships). “You’re with your team for a week and the environment is just amazing, love it, wouldn’t change it for the world.
But it has not been all smooth sailings for Smith who was struck down with piriformis syndrome and subsequently was forced to take time off sports in order to get her body back on track.
“Basically what happened is I started getting some really odd symptoms down my right side of my body and it got to a stage when I was at stage championships for athletics and I was running a hurdle race and half way through the hurdle race it was almost like I couldn’t pick up my left leg,” Smith said. “It was just bizarre.”
Despite all of their best efforts it took doctors some time to figure out what the exact cause of Smith’s symptoms were, with the youngster subjected to six months of investigation to decipher the issue.
“Sometimes I would just walk and I would fall over for no reason it was just bizarre,” Smith said. “It took a big toll on me mentally as well because since I was a very young child I’ve always done sports and then I’ve gone a year and a half off. “I struggled a bit like I didn’t know what to do with my time. “I was obviously still in school I was in year 12 so it was a big year anyway and having that burden sort of on top of that made it a little bit more difficult.”
Unable to participate in sport, and going through Year 12 at the time, Smith struggled at times but credited her family for helping her get through it and helping her discover her new love for footy.
“Parents for sure (were my biggest supporters) and I think that the biggest thing for me was coming out of that stage and I think finding footy was something that really helped me through that,” Smith said. “Tim Searle who is one of the AFL Gold Coast talent managers he was the one who got me into the sport but I’ve developed a really good friendship with him from there. “He has been a great mentor, someone I’ve been able to talk to about a lot of things and I’ve really appreciated having his support through everything as well.”
A fluke game of school footy spiralled to a whole other level for Smith, with the 18-year-old delving deeper into the footy world and becoming a key member joining the state sides and rising up the ranks.
“Yeah that was pretty unexpected,” Smith said of the rise to state representation. “I played in the Under-17 state championships that was from the carnival I went straight from that one footy game. “Then from there to the Suns Academy, Queensland Winter Series and then I’ve been lucky enough to come back overage and do it again. “It’s been very fast moving, very intense, completely unexpected but I’ve enjoyed every step of the way and I wouldn’t take it for granted.”
With her ultimate goal to be drafted Smith is aware there are a few things she needs to work on such as her cleanliness across the field, while a clear strength is her vertical leap given her extensive training with heptathlons
“I think I definitely need to get cleaner on the ground being a bit taller it’s a bit hard to get down to that ground level,” she said. Otherwise I think working back and just being a bit more clean, fine-tuning some skills and just I guess footy smarts as well I think that will just come with time because I’ve been in it for such a short amount of time. The footy smarts thing will come with experience,” she said. “My old goal when I was doing heptathlon was to make the Olympics or make some type of Australian team but now for me it I would love nothing more than to get drafted.”