KEY forward Tim Smith will make his AFL debut for Melbourne against the Geelong Cats at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The 26-year-old rookie said it was “unbelievable” to be told the news, first by Casey coach Justin Plapp and then Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin after training, late on Thursday morning.
Simon Goodwin and Justin Plapp informs Tim Smith that he will make his debut. (Photo: Matt Goodrope)
“Plappy hit me up on the track to say ‘come in and do a couple of [video] clips and we’ll review your game from [last] weekend’,” Smith told Melbourne TV.
“We just went through a couple of clips and he said ‘mate, this stuff’s brilliant, but you’re not going to be doing it at Casey this week – you’re going to be doing it against the Cats’.
“Plappy stitched me up a bit, but to get told that you’re going to play your first game is something surreal and something that you dreamed about hearing for your whole football life.”
“I can’t believe the time’s come. I froze [when I was told the news]. That was the moment that it’s just changed everything for me, so I can’t wait to get out there this week and show what I’ve got.”
Smith, who was drafted by Melbourne from Casey at pick No.25 in last November’s NAB AFL Rookie Draft, said Plapp had been a massive part of his journey over the past few years.
“I can’t thank him enough. He’s put a lot of faith in me over the two or three years that I’ve known him and he’s always stood by my side and always helped me find a way that I can make my game better,” he said.
“I really thank him – and I can’t thank him enough for how much effort and time he’s put into me over the couple of years I’ve known him.”
Smith, who was one of Casey’s best in its losing VFL Grand Final last year, impressed last weekend in a practice match, collecting 21 disposals and booting two goals.
Although Plapp and Goodwin said Smith was in the mix in the lead-up to round three, the player affectionately known as ‘Bull’ wasn’t sure.
“I never ruled myself out, but I just thought it’s very early in the season. I thought I might just have to keep earning my stripes and just keep playing the best I can at Casey and keep having a red-hot crack from there,” he said.
“Sure enough, something will happen and it’s just happened a lot earlier than I thought it would.”
Having been a full-time plumber and VFL-listed player, Smith said combining the two had been challenging.
“All the sacrifices you make over the years – it’s a grind playing VFL and I feel for the guys that do it because it can get hard during the year,” he said.
“To be able to push through that and get a chance at AFL level is just a phenomenal effort and something I’ll always remember.”
The only slight disappointment in the timing of Smith’s debut is the fact his parents are overseas and are unlikely to be back in time.
“The worst part is my folks are overseas at the moment,” he said.
“I don’t think they’ll make the game unfortunately – they’re in Europe.
“I couldn’t actually even tell you [exactly] where they are. There is a little bit of lack of communication on my behalf, but I think they’re in the UK somewhere. I’ll have to hit them up and see what they’re doing.
“But my brother and sister, I’m sure they’ll be over the moon. And my fiancé and her family will be ecstatic and I can’t wait to have them watch me. The emotion that they get out of it, it makes me feel so happy that they’re involved.”
Justin Plapp informs Tim Smith that he will make his debut. (Photo: Matt Goodrope)