Josh Smith fairytale lives on. By Peter Blucher.
Josh Smith really is just living the football dream.
The Collingwood rookie, who has played 17 AFL senior games in a row since his fairytale debut in the Round 5 Anzac Day clash, is set to write himself into the record books after yet another mind-blowing performance on Saturday night.
Looking every bit a seasoned 100-gamer rather than a first-year rookie, Smith had a career-high 35 possessions in Collingwood’s big win over the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium.
This equalled David Armitage’s 35 possessions for St.Kilda against Hawthorn in Round 4 as the most by a Queenslander in the AFL this season.
And with his 18th game coming up in Round 23 next weekend, Smith is set to rank equal fifth for most games by a Queenslander in his first season. And most by rookie.
Steven Handley, a 1989-90 Southport premiership player and Brisbane Bears reserves top-up who joined Geelong in 1992 after a stint at Swan Districts in the WAFL, heads that list with 24 games in 1992.
Claimed by the Cats in the 1991 Mid-Season Draft, Handley debuted in Round 1 1992 and played every home-and-away fixture plus two finals before missing selection for the preliminary final and the grand final.
He subsequently played in losing grand finals for the Cats in 1994 and ’95 before being de-listed at the end of 1996 after 73 games for the Cats.
Zac Smith, now at Geelong, played 20 games in his first season with the Gold Coast in 2011, while Collingwood midfielder Josh Thomas and Brisbane defender Harris Andrews each played 19 games in their debut season in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
Dayne Beams, now at Brisbane, played 18 games in his first season at Collingwood in 2009.
Smith, who has quickly become a favorite of Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, is also set to jump to the top of the list for most possessions by a Queenslander in his first season.
With 362 possessions at 21.3 per game, including nine games of 20 possessions or more, Smith is just one possession behind Thomas’ debut season of 363 possessions at 19.1 per game.
Other Queenslanders to top 300 possessions in their first AFL season were Beams, with 318 at 17.7 in 2009, and Brisbane’s Dayne Zorko, who amassed 314 at 19.6 per game in 16 games in 2012.
Smith’s big game on Saturday night also puts him in rare company as just the 11th Queenslander and the first rookie to have 35 or more possessions in a game.
Dayne Beams has had a record eight 35-possession games, followed by Scott McIvor (5), Armitage (5), Michael Voss (4), Dayne Zorko (3), Marcus Ashcroft (2), Jason Akermanis (2), Gavin Crosisca (1), Jarrod Harbrow (1) and Thomas (1).
Armitage holds the Queensland record for most possessions in a game at 45.
Quite remarkably, Smith ranks fifth this season in average possessions at Collingwood behind Adam Treloar (637 at 30.3), Scott Pendlebury (600 at 28.6), Taylor Adams (389 at 27.8) and Steele Sidebottom (481 at 25.3).
And despite missing the first four games of the season he’s seventh in aggregate possessions for the Magpies behind Treloar, Pendlebury, Adams, Sidebottom, Jack Crisp (423 at 20.1) and Brodie Grundy (366 at 18.3).
Smith, who earned a career-best 128 Champion Data ranking points for his superb effort against the Suns, was one of two Queensland standouts wearing black and white stripes in Round 22.
Jesse White had arguably the best game of his career with 17 possessions, an equal career-high 10 marks, and equal career-high six inside 50s, nine hit-outs, four tackles and three goals.
And had he kicked more accurately than his 3-4 the former Sydney Swans utility would certainly have topped his career-high goals mark of four, which he’s had three times.
White earned a season-high 123 Champion Data points.
While the AFL season will end for Smith and White and the majority of Queenslanders this weekend, as many as seven are in the selection mix for the eight teams bound for the finals.
Kurt Tippett and Aliir Aliir loom as automatic picks for Sydney, Zac Smith likewise at Geelong, and Brendan Whitecross, although he will never take anything for granted, would look to be a lock for Hawthorn after six good games in a row.
Sam Reid will be among the contenders for the last few spots in the GWS side despite missing the last three weeks, and Corey Wagner likewise at North Melbourne despite not playing at senior level since Round 17.
The selection bolter could be Joel Tippett at North Melbourne despite not playing at senior level this year. He’s been an emergency in each of the last two weeks, has played consistently well with Werribee in the VFL, and there is a fitness cloud over first-choice fullback Scott Thompson.
In other standout Queensland performances for Round 23:-
- Lachie Weller had a career-high 28 possessions for Fremantle against GWS Giants. It was his third 20-possession game of the season.
- Harris Andrews had a season-high 19 possessions and an equal team-high seven 1%ers for Brisbane against Geelong as he continued to close out his second AFL season in good fashion.
- Daniel Merrett had a season-high eight rebound 50s, an equal team-high seven 1%ers and 16 possessions in his 199th game against the Cats. Fittingly, the third-biggest Gabba crowd of the season turned out to see Merrett play his last home game. Only home games against Collingwood and Hawthorn have pulled bigger crowds this season.
- Kurt Tippett made a solid return from a 10-week injury layoff with 11 possessions, 17 hit-outs and seven 1%ers for Sydney against North Melbourne in Hobart.
- Sam Gilbert had 21 possessions for St.Kilda against Richmond at the MCG as he celebrated his 3000th AFL possession and his 100th AFL win. Now with 3008 possessions, the former Gold Coaster is the ninth player to top 3000 behind Voss (6143), Akermanis (5868), Ashcroft (5848), Nick Riewoldt (5301), Crosisca (3951), McIvor (3639), Harbrow (3478) and Dayne Beams (3177). He’s 11th on the win list behind Akermanis (177), Jason Dunstall (167), Michael Voss (167), Riewoldt (156), Ashcroft (153), David Hale (138), Mal Michael (124), Crosisca (122), Max Hudghton (110) and Che Cockatoo-Collins (101).
- Nick Riewoldt, who had 21 possessions and a team-high 10 marks against Richmond, played his 318th game for the Saints to join Ashcroft in equal second spot on the all-time games list for Queenslanders. Only Akermanis, with 325, is ahead of him.