DRAFT ANALYSIS: “A high production midfielder who also offers the best combination of contested ball-winning, reliable kicking and acceleration in this draft.”
Chiefly working his craft across off half-back as a bottom-ager in the Dragons’ 2017 TAC Cup campaign, Smith’s outside ball-winning ability became prominent, making a name for himself as one of the best accumulators in the competition. However, the Xavier College student also demonstrated his talent on the inside at school level, along with winning a remarkable 22 contested possessions against the Western Jets. The then 16-year-old capped off an exceptional 2017 season with 25 disposals and six tackles in the TAC Cup Grand Final. After being named the captain for both the Sandringham Dragons and Xavier College for the 2018 season, Smith has this year confirmed his status as one of the best prospects in the country. Illustrating his prodigious talent at this year’s National Championships, Smith averaged 24.8 disposals, including a 28-disposal, 10-tackle production against WA at Optus Stadium, as well as a three-goal performance against Vic Country at the MCG. His efforts were recognised with under-18 All-Australian selection, as well as the Vic Metro Most Valuable Player Award. Despite only two TAC Cup appearances this season — due to a combination of representative and school commitments as well as an achilles injury late in the season — Smith’s performances for the Dragons showcased his brilliance, with 37 disposals, four marks and seven tackles against Northern, well- accompanied by a 28-disposal, two-goal and six-tackle effort against Western. It’s a toss-up between Smith and Sam Walsh as to who the best midfielder in this year’s draft crop is, and while Walsh is widely predicted to taken with the first selection, expect Smith’s name to be read out in short succession.
- Contested ball-winning
Smith’s big tank is widely recognised as one of his greatest strengths. His endurance became a clear feature of his game last year, running all day and finding the football with ease. Combining this with his ability to win the ball on the inside, though, is what really sets Smith apart from fellow midfield prospects. It’s a rarity that a player is known for both contested ball-winning and endurance, but it’s a blend that makes Smith arguably the most complete midfielder in this year’s draft pool. His versatility was further showcased throughout Vic Metro’s 2018 campaign, where he was often positioned in the forward line to great success, including a three-goal effort on the MCG against Vic Country. And, while his talent is obvious, Smith’s attitude has become just as notable. Corroborated by captaincy roles for both the Dragons and Xavier, the East Malvern Junior Football Club product’s off-field efforts are a key-strength, known for setting high training standards, together with elite preparation. The extent of Smith’s dedication is exemplified through a school football anecdote which surfaced earlier this season, where immediately following a below-par performance, he ran repeat 200-metre sprints until restrained by coaches.
- Defensive One-on-ones
Smith like many outstanding prospects does not have a great deal of improvements to make, other than sharpening a few areas that could lift his game to another level. His defensive one-on-ones, particularly across half-back and deep inside 50 is an area in which opponents can work over Smith unlike any other area of the ground. In the TAC Cup Grand Final, Smith was opposed to Gryan Miers for large portions of the game, and while Smith showed off great dash and skill off half-back, his opponent got the better of him multiple times on the way to a best on ground in a grand final. Smith has predominantly just played midfield this season, having managed two games for Sandringham Dragons before playing at Xavier College, and representing Vic Metro in the National Under 18 Championships. An achilles injury saw the end of his year, and it proved a huge loss for the Dragons who fell in the preliminary final.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 3-7
The complete midfielder, who dominates on the inside, outside and can also use his elite kicking when deployed across half-back or hit the scoreboard up forward. One of the best players in this year’s draft, Smith seems destined for AFL stardom, and will work as hard as any to achieve it. His huge endurance base and strong athletic base to go with his natural footballing ability make him a dangerous proposition for opposition coaches, and an exciting one for his future mentors. He is not likely to last too long on the draft boards, and will be the second Victorian midfielder to be taken in the National AFL Draft. There will be no shortage of clubs keen on Smith, who is a terrific leader both on and off the field.
Under 18s Championships