DRAFT ANALYSIS: "A really consistent inside midfielder whose distribution by hand and strength around the stoppages has been a highlight of his game."
Ely Smith is a player who rocketed from important TAC Cup player, into Vic Country representative, with a best on ground for his representative side at GMHBA Stadium in Country’s loss to Western Australia. The performance was a culmination of a couple of months of good work, and in my eyes, went from a solid inside midfielder, into one with not only inside grunt, but actual hurt factor, which is something that few inside midfielders have. He does not quite have the acceleration or endurance of other inside midfielders, but in saying that, they are not deficiencies either, he is still very solid in those areas. Where he is strong athletically, is his vertical leap, and in terms of footballing attributes, he is strong on the inside, great at extracting the ball from a stoppage and his distribution by hand is superb. The big thing about Smith is the fact that the areas he can develop, are more ways that he can improve, rather than are currently deficiencies, and with his form, he could very well feature in the mid-draft region from the third round onwards.
- Distribution by hand
- Vertical jump
Smith has plenty of traits that make him not only a rounded inside midfielder, but offering something different at the level. Not many inside midfielders can boast an 80-plus centimetre vertical jump, with the Murray Bushrangers’ midfielder achieving that in pre-season testing. His consistency, particularly in the mid-part of the year and the lead-up to finals was really strong and he became a key cog in the Bushrangers midfield, and shone bright when he represented Vic Country. Of the traits he is expected to and does have as an inside midfielder, is his strength, clearance work and distribution by hand.
Inside midfielders often do not get noticed unless they have blistering speed or hit the scoreboard – Smith does not have either, but his ability to win the ball on the inside and distribute to teammates in space is very good. In the TAC Cup this season, of the players to play 10 or more games, Smith averaged equal third most clearances per game with 5.4, behind Liam Stocker and Xavier O’Halloran – both of whom are expected to be top 25 picks. He also averaged 11.6 contested possessions per game – seventh most of those with 10 matches or more played, and equal seventh in disposals (23.5) of players under the same filter. Despite being largely contested, Smith’s kicking is still very solid, averaging 57.4 per cent by foot, but more importantly, having the fourth lowest clanger percentage of any Victorian National Draft Combine invitee with just 8.5 per cent of his kicks resulting in a direct turnover. Overall, Smith’s ability to stand up against bigger bodies showed, when he played well as the 23rd man for Collingwood’s Victorian Football League (VFL) side.
- Scoreboard impact
- Outside game
The two areas which Smith can continue to develop are his ability to hit the scoreboard, and his outside game. He has such a strong inside presence, he has largely not needed to impact on the outside, and while his speed and endurance are not elite, they are still very solid. He runs a 3.06-second 20m sprint and 20.8 yo-yo test, which is still good when you are at the coal face, and with his vertical leap, he could still play as a forward if required. To do that though, he would need to lift his scoreboard impact, booting 6.10 from his games this season, with that being the next major step in his development. In modern times, teams love it when midfielders are able to get forward and kick a goal or two, and with his traits, Smith could easily do that if given the chance. As a whole with his improvements, there are not too many deficiencies in his game, and it is more about just improving a lot of the little areas athletically, or building on his game in the forward half.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Third Round onwards
Ely Smith is a prospect who has shot up draft boards after terrific TAC Cup form saw him earn a Vic Country place. He did not look out of place there, being Country’s best in the loss, and then took the next step playing well in the VFL. He is more readymade than most players in the Under 18s, and it is more about continuing to build on some of his athletic capabilities and forming a better all-round game. In terms of midfield presence, Smith is one of the few inside midfielders that you notice when they play, because of his strength, clearance ability and distribution by hand. It is a little hard to read where he slots into the draft, as he is in that next batch of players just outside the absolute top stars with elite acceleration. However, due to his consistent nature and not having a great deal of deficiencies in his game, one would expect he has done enough to find a home mid-to-late-draft.
Under 18s Championships