Zac Smith Signs With GC17
A 204cm Rockhampton teenager who just 21 months ago had never kicked an AFL football seriously and dreamed of playing soccer for Australia has been signed by the fledgling Gold Coast AFL club.
Zac Smith, now playing with the Zillmere Eagles in the AFL Queensland Velocity Sports Cup, accepted a three-year contract with GC17, the Gold Coast-based group hoping to secure the AFL’s 17th license in October.
He’ll become the third Rockhampton product in the AFL ‘family’, joining Gavin Urquhart, playing with North Melbourne and winner of this week’s NAB AFL Rising Star Award nomination, and Paul O’Shea, a second-year player at the Western Bulldogs yet to play at senior level.
And he'll become the fourth GC17 signing after Gold Coasters Jesse Haberfield and Jack Stanklake and Cairns' Charlie Dixon committed to the new club last week.
“My head is still spinning – I can’t quite believe what has happened and how quickly it has happened,” Smith, an 18-year-old ruckman, said today after putting pen to paper.
But it will all become a reality when he reports for ‘work’ with the Gold Coast on 1 November and complete a football fairytale which began when a bunch of mates asked him to play Australian football at North Rockhampton High School in October 2006.
“I just liked the whole AFL package – the speed of the game, the varied skills and the competitiveness.
“I’d always played soccer and I guess my long-term goal was to play for Australia,” said Smith, a former Queensland junior soccer and indoor soccer representative.
“I was thinking that if things went well maybe at 20 or 21 I might move to Brisbane to see how far I could go.
“I wasn’t really too interested in AFL back then although I used to watch the Brisbane Lions on TV. But all that changed when I started playing.”
Smith, born in Biloela before his family moved to Rockhampton in 2001, trained with the AFL Capricornia Development Squad in Rockhampton over December-January 2006-07 and played U17s last year with the Glenmore Bulls, the same junior club as Urquhart.
Runner-Up in the 2007 Bulls U17 B&F, he is a product of the AFL Queensland Rookie Search Program and a Country Kookaburras U18 representative in 2007-08.
He was invited to a camp at the AIS in Canberra with the AFL/AIS Academy squad in December ’07 and moved with his family to Brisbane this year to maximize his football opportunities.
Blessed with enormous pace and athleticism for a player of his height, he starred with the Queensland U18 side and has made huge strides with Zillmere under coach Murray Davis.
“Murray has been terrific – he’s worked really hard on my skills and taught me how to get around the ground – footy smarts. It’s been a massive jump but I just figured I had to put my head up high and do my best. I’ve learned so much over the last three months,” said Smith.
Mark Browning, AFL Queensland Talent Manager, said Smith had shown a great capacity to be competitive at whatever level of football he had played this year.
“Whether it was with the Queensland U18 side, the TAC Cup or the Zillmere Eagles against an AFL player like Matthew Leuenberger (Brisbane Lions), he has been fantastic,” said Browning.
“He thrives on the challenge. For a player who is 204cm his speed and athleticism, and his ability to compete against experienced, mature-aged opposition has really excited AFL recruiting scouts right across the board.”
Smith, courted by a string of AFL clubs and widely tipped as a likely AFL draftee in November, admitted it was a tough decision to bypass this year’s AFL draft and commit to the Gold Coast.
“I just decided it was best for my development. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a long way to go and the chance to stay in Queensland and work at it was an awesome opportunity,” he explained.
“I’ve got a lot of really close mates back home (Rockhampton) and I’m pleased I’ll be able to stay in Queensland and maybe catch up with them a couple of times a year.”
Smith, who will play a key role in Zillmere’s bid for an AFLQ finals berth over the next three weeks, says he has followed closely the endeavours of Lions ruckman and ex-Eagle Jamie Charman.
“I watch him closely whenever I get a chance – I love his aggression at the ball. I really admire him and I try to model my game on his,” he said, hoping to begin a business degree at university on the Gold Coast next year