Derek Smith has travelled all over Victoria to play football in 2017, from his home town of Wentworth in NSW to Punt Road Oval – the heartland of the sport’s biggest story of the year.
The 186cm 19-year-old made five appearances for Richmond’s VFL team as the 23rd player this season, averaging 14 disposals at 86 per cent efficiency and four marks per game running from defence, with his experience allowing him to build connections with AFL Tigers involved in the club’s drought-breaking premiership triumph.
Smith also played for the Bendigo Pioneers in the TAC Cup this year, as well as for local clubs the Fitzroy Stars (Northern FNL) and Wentworth (Sunraysia FNL).
vfl.com.au spoke to Smith at the recent Victorian State Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2017 NAB AFL Draft on Friday November 24.
What strengths of yours have you been using to sell yourself to AFL clubs?
- My run-and-carry, my smarts in marking the ball and I can kick on both legs.
What parts of your game do you know you’ll need to work on if you’re drafted?
- Probably my strength one-on-one against bigger bodies.
Which AFL players do you particularly like to watch and model your game on?
- One was Chris Yarran (ex-Carlton and Richmond) but he’s not playing any more.
How would you assess your 2017 season?
- It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride. I’ve been pretty much all over Victoria playing (at various levels), but I’ve handled it pretty well. I liked all the boys from Richmond’s AFL team getting around me as well; I’ve been hanging around the younger ones a lot. I’ve been playing pretty much off half back and on a wing. At local level, they just chuck me in the midfield to help out a bit. Wherever they put me, I’ll play.
What expectations did you have for yourself at the start of the year?
- At the start of this year I just wanted to play footy and do my best. Last year I was playing locally back home and just focusing on that. I didn’t think I’d be in this position I’m in.
What do you think was your best individual performance of the season?
- My last game against Sandringham (19 disposals and five marks in a 70-point win in Round 18). I played to my strengths really well, marking the ball in packs and running and carrying.
Who do you think has had the biggest influence on your football in the VFL?
- Probably the Korin Gamadji Institute (for indigenous youth development) at Richmond. I’ve been hanging around them a lot for the past three years. Xavier Clarke, a development coach, as well. I’ve developed my talking ability and the KGI has helped with my shyness. I wouldn’t have done this (on-camera interview) two years ago!
Which of your teammates do you think should also be talked about as draft prospects?
- There’s one that has been a 23rd player as well, Shaun Mannagh. He played three finals, including the Grand Final.
THE FAST FIVE with Derek Smith
What food could you not live without?
- Spaghetti bolognese.
If you weren’t possibly about to become a full-time footballer, what would be your dream job?
- Probably something in construction, building houses.
What karaoke song would you sing to save your life?
- I’m not going to talk about that one!
Which teammate would you want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
- Harrison Tanner, because he’s funny and he’s pretty smart.
Which teammate would you not want to be stranded on a desert island with and why?
- Danko Bzenic, because he talks a lot and goes into detail when you talk him into something.