Scorpion Smith finds his sting
The Casey Scorpions lost a bit of their sting over the last two Peter Jackson VFL seasons, but senior coach Justin Plapp’s 2016 team is suddenly sitting second after 10 rounds.
The extra attention being paid to the Scorpions is now also shining a light on some of the club’s well-performed VFL-listed players – players such as Tim Smith.
At just 25 years of age, Smith is Casey’s oldest VFL-listed player and the club’s only current 50-gamer following the departures of veterans such as former captain Evan Panozza, Mitch Gent and Will Petropoulos over the off-season.
He joined the Scorpions in 2012 from Upper Ferntree Gully in the Eastern Football League – where he was part of a senior premiership team as a 19-year-old – and promptly played 16 senior games in a year when Casey won the minor premiership.
Smith has been with the club from the relative highs of 2012 through some leaner years more recently and says its AFL alignment with Melbourne has never been stronger.
“That alignment is really a key to our success I reckon,” Smith said. “The systems put in place to have a real ‘one club’ mentality between Casey and Melbourne have advanced tenfold since 2012.
“The guys at Melbourne are obviously invested and they want to succeed, and the guys at Casey are well experienced and want to win. Everyone wants to get to the same goal.
“It’s also about just taking a general interest in what everyone’s doing around the club. So if guys get senior selection in the AFL, the Casey guys might send them a message or get in contact with them and congratulate them. We’re just trying to reach each other on a more personal level.
“It’s definitely something Justin Plapp’s really worked hard on and all credit to him – he’s done a bloody good job because it’s working really well.”
The success of the ‘one club’ mentality is now shining a light on the good form of players such James Munro, Angus Scott and Smith, who said his football was benefiting from the emergence of several Demons key forwards around him.
192cm Smith spent much of his previous four seasons at Casey as a tall forward target – kicking 56 goals in 52 games – but with Melbourne key-position draftees Sam Weideman and Liam Hulett as well as a fit-again Chris Dawes drawing the ball, his on-field role has changed.
He’s now playing smaller than previously, as part of the VFL’s top-ranked forward line for goals and score assists per game, and the third-ranked team for goals scored per entry inside 50. With 12 goals from eight games, Smith might just be playing the best football of his career.
“I’d say I am, yeah,” he said.
“The biggest thing with VFL football is if you’re not consistent, there’s always pressure from guys playing in the Development League – especially at an aligned club. In past years my consistency has probably been up and down, whereas this year I’m able to play consistent footy week in week out.
“Our forward line is quite tall and you can’t have five blokes jumping at the footy every game, so I’ve got a spot in there somewhere and maybe staying on the ground and putting on some tackle pressure is more my go.
“I’d like to think I’m playing my role in the team and that’s contributing to us winning.”
Off-field, Smith’s personal development over his time with the Scorpions has translated into a role as vice-captain under club skipper Jack Hutchins.
“Being able to help the younger guys out as much as I can is something I pride myself on,” Smith said.
“The leaders do a bit of mentoring around the club. We’ve got values that we instil and we try to drive to make the club as professional as can be.
“It’s all about a team mentality and trying to work side by side with each other on and off the ground. That definitely makes it easier come game day to be able to perform to a high level.”
Smith’s high-level performances saw him selected in the VFL team that lost to the SANFL by 19 points in the state game three weeks ago. He thinks he “didn’t do too bad” testing himself against the best, which is testament to how he’s flourished over his VFL journey.
“I was always just thereabouts in junior footy; I wasn’t a stand-out,” Smith said.
“I tried out for the TAC Cup but I’d just started my plumbing apprenticeship and working full-time. I just wasn’t committed to training or playing three nights a week at 17/18 years old so I went and played local footy at Upper Ferntree Gully.
“(After winning the senior premiership,) my decision to go to Casey was all about: ‘How good could I actually be?’ I wanted to test myself against the best and I want to be the best that I can be – I didn’t want to regret not testing out how good I could’ve been.”
While he may not have taken the usual path to high-level football, Tim Smith is now showing he can certainly mix it with the best the state has to offer.
* Photo: Morgan Hancock