“VINEY wins the hard ball, feeds it out to the running Stretch, who kicks inside 50 and finds Smith – a brilliant mark!
Don’t be surprised if this commentary comes to fruition in the near future after Melbourne signed another son of a former player on Thursday, with the club securing 19-year-old Joel Smith, the son of former high-flying Demon Shaun Smith.
Smith, who is 191cm and 85kg, has been recruited via the three-year non-registered rule and will be listed as a category B rookie player in 2016. (This is where a player has not been registered in an Australian Football competition for three years immediately before being included on the rookie list.)
Yet the manner Smith was claimed by the Demons was “a good footy club story”, according to national recruiting manager Jason Taylor.
“We knew of Joel through his father Shaun, but we first got alluded to him by David Chippindall, our CFO (chief financial officer), and that’s the beauty of footy clubs – the networks,” he told Dee TV.
“From there, he (Chippindall) told us a little bit about his connection with a coach of Joel’s, Nat Gilbert.
“[Pro scout] Kelly O’Donnell met with Nat and he went through a bit about Joel’s profile and character, and his sporting pedigree and we followed it from there.”
Taylor said Smith took part in football and physical testing over a period of time, conducted by the club, before the Demons decided to recruit him.
“We’ve been tracking his progress for the past 12 months to where now we’ve been able to sign him up, so it’s a good story … but we feel we’ve done it the right way,” he said.
Taylor said Smith had several strong attributes, including “elite speed”.
“He tests sub 2.80 [20 metres]. Given his basketball [background], he’s got good speed, agility and vertical leaping. He’s also got a solid endurance base,” he said.
“He’s going to have a fair bit of work to do with the footy conditioning, but he comes in with a reasonable base.”
Shaun Smith, a high-flying forward/defender, played 109 AFL games, including 47 with North Melbourne from 1987-92 and 62 with Melbourne from 1995-98.
Although he once kept Gary Ablett Snr goalless in an outstanding individual display at the Cattery in round 16, 1996 – and earned two Brownlow Medal votes in Melbourne’s 58-point loss – he is best known for another phenomenal football feat.
In round 22, 1995, Smith took what was later dubbed the ‘mark of the century’, when he launched over teammate Garry Lyon and in front of Brisbane’s Nathan Chapman. His launch in the Gabba goalsquare still has claims today as the greatest grab the game has seen.
Now with son Joel at the club, Shaun said he was “over the moon” to see the family ties continue in the red and blue.
“[Former North Melbourne teammate] Brett Allison was my best man and he’s involved in the development side of things [at Melbourne] and through conversations [it evolved that Joel came to the club],” Smith told Dee TV.
“Deep down I think Joel really wanted to play football, if truth be known, so he’s a very excited boy at the moment.
“I just hope he gives it 100 per cent and leaves no stone unturned. I just hope he enjoys it as well and I think he will, because he’s got a really good attitude. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Remarkably, Shaun said his son had a better leap than him.
“He can definitely jump higher than me – I can tell you right now,” he said.
“He’s got me covered.”
Joel started playing football with Taylors Lakes in under 10s, where he “won a couple of best and fairests” and then moved to Maribyrnong Park in under 16s, before switching to sports.
He played basketball at Keilor and most recently with the Geelong Supercats in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL). He also represented Australia in the under 19s and played basketball in New Zealand.
“I did pretty well in basketball … but in the last couple of months I missed footy and after speaking with my Dad and the Dees, I thought it might be time to make a change and I’m pretty happy with my decision right now,” he said.
“Over the next year, I want to develop my game to where I want it to be and hopefully in the next few years, I’ll put on the Dees jumper and hopefully run out on the ‘G and follow my dad’s footsteps.”
And as for how often he is asked about his dad’s famous mark 20 years ago, Joel said it used to happen quite regularly.
“It’s not so much anymore, but back in the day, it got a fair bit. He’d walk along the street and random people would come up and say ‘you’re Shaun Smith’,” he said.
“I’ve heard about it a fair bit.”
And we might be hearing a bit more of Joel in the future too.