Swans’ Smith chases dream in Harbour City

TOP-AGE Sydney Swans Academy member Taylor Smith has quite the local awards cabinet for a budding AFL Women’s draft hopeful, with the Nelson Bay local hoping to make the most of her 2024 season. Often making the three-hour-plus trek from her home to train with the Swans Academy, the teenager is hoping the hard yards can pay off.

“I live three hours, three and a bit hours from training so even like leaving school to get there a bit earlier and getting those extra kicks in, getting those extra handballs in, and working on my fitness because I’ve never been an athlete so still working on that, but it’s definitely improving 100 per cent,” Smith said on how she plans to improve her game this season.

It comes as no surprise that Smith is a Sydney Swans fan, having grown up in the state and made progress through the grades. Starting at the age of 12 alongside her brother at the Nelson Bay Marlins, Smith’s footy journey began.

“I wanted to go so I joined the junior comp with all my friends and gained a bit of love for it and I joined the Swans Academy when I was 13,” Smith said.

Wanting to take her game up a notch, Smith headed 45 minutes away to play for Port Stephens Power as the Marlins did not have a senior team. In an unusual quirk, Stephens played three games for the Power in 2022, of which two of them came on a Saturday, before running out for Nelson Bay on Under 17s on the Sunday.

Of course playing for two teams within the same league – regardless of grades – causes headaches for administrators, and Smith was told after 2023 she played 11 games for the Power seniors and 14 for the Marlins juniors last year, that she had to play for the one club. Most impressively, throwing in her trio of Swans Academy matches and Smith played a massive 28 matches in 2023.

Many might be a tad run-down from that kind of commitment, but Smith said the experience with the Swans Academy was “amazing” and that it helped her produce big in her local football.

“I learned so much, I ended up taking out AFL Black Diamond Best and Fairest for the year and I also won Rising Star at the Hunter Central Coast Awards night,” Smith said. “For the junior in my team I came runner-up best and fairest and leading goalkicker.”

Describing herself as an agile player who is a quick thinker and has clean ball handling skills, Smith has been working hard on developing the left side of her body to become a natural dual-sided talent.

“My kicking definitely my left foot 100 per cent has improved and my left hand is becoming so much more natural I can just do it without even thinking about it,” Smith said.

Smith said when looking up to the elite level, Brenna Tarrant and Brooke Lochland were players she liked to emulate and learn from. Lochland in particular has had a profound impact on the youngster’s career to-date.

“She was their ex-captain and she came along and trained with us and this year she’s an assistant coach,” Smith said. “She’s always there as a friend but also as a coach, she’s a very good mentor and she really brings her gameplan into our trainings which you can really see it affects us hugely.”

Back onto her own game and the Swans Academy member had a couple of goals for 2024. Play consistent football at local level and for the red and white in the Coates Talent League Girls competition, with the main aim of cracking into the Allies squad this year.

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