21 Nov Hunter backs Werribee recruit as one to watch
When covering 33 senior teams spread across three divisions each week it is fair to say Southern FNL media manager Will Hunter has covered a fair few stories.
Yet when the guru was asked about Werribee Centrals new recruit Jackson Smith, there was no need to search through the archives.
Last night the 19-year-old was publicly announced as the Centrals’ newest recruit eight weeks after his father Nick signed as senior coach.
And while the countdown is on for his GDFL senior debut against East Geelong next year, Hunter regards the signing as a great loss for his suburban league.
“What he’s (Jackson) achieved in his first two years of senior football is sensational so he’d be a player to watch in the GDFL, no doubt about it,” Hunter said.
“He would have matched our record for meters gained this year which is not a stat we keep (or even notice) in community footy.”
He added, “To be honest we’re disappointed to see both of them leave because they are both great people from a great family,” Hunter said.
Smith made his senior debut for Mount Waverley last season the same afternoon his father, and former GDFL premiership player, Nick commenced his second stint as the Lions’ senior coach.
The dynamic utility had already been a member of TAC Cup clubs Calder Cannons and Northern Knights (as well as the Victorian Metro under-16 squad) before making league history in May, 2016.
“Last year he became the first Division 3 player (as far as I’m aware) to be selected in our senior interleague side,” Hunter proudly recalled.
“This is in an interleague system for us that dates back to 1993 and what made it all the more remarkable was the fact that he was only 17-years-old at the time.”
The teenager’s run off the wing would help guide the Southern FNL to a convincing 49-point victory over the Ellinbank DFL; the same afternoon the GDFL held off the Central Highlands by four points.
The season was then capped off when the father-son duo helped guide the Lions to a memorable 67-point premiership victory over Ashwood with Jackson able to land a goal from 80m out.
“They (Mount Waverley) had been through a fair bit of heart break before then with six grand final defeats beforehand (their last flag was in 1998 at Division 4 level).”
“It was a massive monkey off their back for all involved.”
The Lions were then promoted to the second tier and finished sixth with an 8-10 record this season where they defeated the eventual premiers Chelsea Heights in August.
And then came the league best and fairest night.
Smith would do enough to take home the Division 2 league best and fairest by polling 23 votes ahead of former Carlton & Collingwood star Chris Bryan (22) while Murrumbeena veteran Liam Wilson (21) finished third.
“Just look at the quality of the guys he beat to win that medal,” Hunter said.
“Liam Wilson has been universally regarded as one of our best players in local football because he had already won two Division 1 medals.”
“So for this up-and-comer to come out of nowhere and pip the medal makes for the story that writes itself.
The reigning medalist will now enter 2018 as a Whitley medal contender when playing alongside 2017 GDFL Rookie of the year Bradley Carlton and Jared Fletcher who both re-signed this week.
Though Smith is expected to play in the midfield, Hunter warns opposing GDFL clubs to be ready for anything.
“He doesn’t fit a conventional mold because he’s very tall and he’s multi positional so I think you could throw him anywhere,” Hunter said.
“He runs like the wind, he’s been a freak of a player in our competition and I was wrapped when he won the medal.”
“We’ll miss Jackson because he is a great person who comes from a terrific family and as for Nick, he’s a very good operator so I think the Centurions will do well next year.”
The 22-year-old played a total of 40 senior games for the Magpies from 2012 to 2015 booting 58 goals in the process before a brief stint at Corio where he added five reserves games to his resume.
He was best remembered for his best afield performance in the Magpies’ 2013 premiership victory over the Panthers, he will now call the Myers Reserve home after being linked with a handful of clubs.