NAB League Player Focus: Josh Smillie (Eastern Ranges)

EASTERN Ranges midfielder Josh Smillie is already a decorated junior, having broken through for his NAB League debut at 16-years-old on the back of an excellent Under 16 National Championships. The strongly-built young gun took out Vic Metro’s MVP award, en route to being named at half-back in the All Australian side.

With a well developed 190cm frame, Smillie stood out among his Under 16 peers and has stood up to the rigours of Under 18 football. He possesses a wicked kick and athleticism to boot, which translate to roles on each line. In his third NAB League game, he again showed promise as Eastern comprehensively beat Sandringham by 77 points. We put his performance under the Player Focus microscope.

Josh Smillie

Height: 191cm

Weight: 90kg

DOB: 17-05-2006

Aerial ability
Clean hands
Contested work
Kicking penetration

2022 NAB League – Round 15
Eastern Ranges 20.10 (130) def. Sandringham Dragons 7.11 (53)

Stats: 15 disposals (6 kicks, 9 handballs), 1 mark, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s


Though he attended the most amount of centre bounces in term one (three of five), Smillie’s opening 25 minutes were his least productive as he eased into the contest. He rotated straight into the midfield after five minutes, lining up next to star prospect and Sandringham skipper Will Ashcroft.

Though his running wasn’t always intense, Smillie hunted the ground ball on a soggy Box Hill City Oval deck, showcasing his range and size at the contest. He helped to apply pressure in the rolling scrums and dove in over ground balls, locking it up when required.

Having shifted forward, Smillie’s first disposal came via a handball receive on the wing, and he hit a neat kick to half-forward. One touch was all he came away with for the quarter, but Smillie would have felt as if he was in the game as Eastern made a strong start.


Smillie continued his midfield-forward rotation throughout term two, attending just one of eight centre bounces but featuring on-ball in general play. He started on the field, inside 50, but hit up hard off the line to join in at the midfield contests.

Having manned Ashcroft at a couple of stoppages, he was occupied by Ben Hempel while forward and lined up next to Harry Sheezel onball. Hempel played him smartly, sagging off as Smillie was drawn into the contest and running off on the overlap when he could.

Still, Smillie managed to rack up a handful of his own touches with clean handling and strength under pressure. Two of his three kicks were inside 50s, put to good spots without being pinpoint, while the third was a snap which went straight up and landed in a teammate’s lap.


Transferring to a much more permanent forward role, Smillie started off the ground and very nearly got a touch as soon as he rotated on. The kick went over his head, but he hardly had to wait long to get his hands on the ball.

The 16-year-old showed nice stoppage smarts to spread forward of a defensive wing stoppage to receive and then handball off to a runner, before gathering cleanly off the ruckman’s tap at a later ball-up.

In between those two touches, Smillie also popped up in space at half-back for an uncontested mark, which he used to kick down the line. It was aired and cut off by a Sandringham player, but was hardly a bad option.


The fourth quarter was just arguably Smillie’s best and most productive, as he added a half-dozen disposals and the Ranges ran riot. He again featured up forward and with looser marking, was able to shift into space and contribute neat touches.

Working all the way up to the wing at times, Smillie displayed terrific ground level skills to gather the ball quickly and cleanly, while his distribution by hand was just as sound. With a boost in confidence, his composure was evident and brought teammates into the play as Eastern surged forward.

There aren’t too many players per year who instantly become the star of their NAB League side as a 16-year-old, but Smillie clearly has the nous and physical traits to play a role. While utilised as a mid-forward so far, he could also cut his teeth behind the ball as he continues to find his feet at Under 18 level.

His strength and skills are impressive, with the youngster offering a nice balance of traits as a utility Ranges coach Travis Cloke can turn to at the pointy end of the season. The best part is, he has two more years of development left before he is draft eligible.

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