Archie Smith’s stunning AFL debut. By Peter Blucher
Brisbane Lions rookie Archie Smith has delivered the best debut performance ever by a Queensland ruckman to lead a powerhouse “Smith-attack” in Round 19 of the Toyota AFL premiership.
Archie Smith had 19 possessions, including 17 contested possessions, 30 hit-outs and nine clearances in a stellar introduction to AFL ranks against Port Adelaide at the Gabba on Saturday.
The 21-year-old basketball convert was the standout Queensland performer of the weekend ahead of Geelong ruckman Zac Smith and Collingwood wingman Josh Smith.
Zac Smith had 15 possessions (13 contested), 31 hit-outs, four clearances and a career-best four contested marks (five marks overall) in Geelong’s win over the Western Bulldogs.
His 13 contested possessions was second only to Patrick Dangerfield’s 13 for the Cats as he took his career tally beyond 1000 possessions in his 82nd game.
And Josh Smith had 28 possessions, seven marks and a career-best seven tackles in Collingwood’s win over West Coast.
His possessions count was just one short of his career-best 29 possessions against West Coast in Round 3 and was a Queensland high for Round 19.
Zac Smith and Josh Smith earned 108 Champion Data ranking points each to top the Round 19 Queensland list from Archie Smith’s 96 points.
His number was reduced a little because 17 of his 19 possessions were handballs – as is to be expected of a first-gamer.
Archie Smith was the big Queensland talking point of the weekend after a big-hearted performance in a 94-point loss which earned him a place in the history books.
His numbers alone amount to an outstanding performance by any big man on any day. But when you factor in that they were for a 21-year-old who had never played football four years ago in his first game at the elite level it is positively mind-blowing.
Tom Rockliff’s 11 contested possessions was next best to Smith’s 17 in the Lions’ team. Daniel Rich, with nine, was the only other player with half as many as Smith.
More emphatically, only two Lions players have had more than 17 contested possessions in a game this season – Rockliff had 18 in Round 11 and Round 13, and Mitch Robinson had 19 in Round 6.
Even more astonishingly, Smith’s 17 contested possessions is a mark bettered by only five Queenslanders all-time – midfielders Michael Voss, Dayne Beams, David Armitage and Dayne Zorko and fellow ruckman Ben Hudson, now the Lions’ ruck coach.
Only Rockliff (26), Rich (24) and Rhys Mathieson (20) had more possessions than the ruck debutant against Port. And Smith’s nine clearances was a team high, ahead of Rockliff (7) and Mathieson (4).
While it can be misleading to compare statistics from different eras, especially when sometimes two ruckmen share the load, Smith’s numbers cannot be ignored.
No other Brisbane ruckman has had anything like 19 possessions (17 contested), 30 hit-outs and seven clearances on debut.
Mark Mickan was statistically best with 18 possessions and 20 hit-outs in his first game for the Bears in 1987. And he was a 26-year-old who had played a lot of football in the SANFL before joining the expansion club at a time when statistics were not kept at that time for contested possessions and clearances.
Matt Rendell, a former Fitzroy captain, B&F winner and All-Australian recently inducted to the Brisbane Lions Hall of Fame, had 21 possessions and 14 hit-outs in his first game for the Bears in 1992. But it was his 155th game overall.
Hudson had 17 possessions (15 contested possessions), 19 hit-outs and five clearances in his first game for the Lions in 2012. But he was at his third club playing his 144th game overall.
Alex Ishchenko had 13 possessions and six hit-outs in his first Bears game after switching from West Coast in 1989. And Damian Bourke, ex-Geelong captain, had five possessions and seven hit-outs in his first Bears outing in 1993.
Stefan Martin, joint Lions B&F winner last year who was rested last weekend to make way for Smith’s debut, had nine possessions (six contested), nine hit-outs and no clearances in his first Brisbane game after 57 games for Melbourne.
Of the more recent ruckmen making their debut in Brisbane colors, nobody gets close to Smith’s numbers.
Clark Keating, the 2001-02-03 premiership hero, had 11 possessions and 13 hit-outs sharing the ruck duties with Matthew Clarke on debut in 1996.
Beau McDonald, a 2001-02 premiership ruckman, had seven disposals, six hit-outs and one clearance in partnership with Clarke in 1998.
Jamie Charman, a 2003 premiership player, had three possessions (all contested), six hit-outs and two clearances working in tandem with McDonald on debut in 2001.
Matthew Leuenberger had three possessions (no contested possessions), four hit-outs and no clearances sharing the centre bounce duties with Charman on debut in 2007.
Among other Bears/Lions ruckmen, Mitch Clark had eight possessions (four contested), five hit-outs and one clearance on debut, Cameron Wood seven possessions (four contested), eight hit-outs and two clearances, Dylan McLaren six possessions (four contested), eight hit-outs and one clearance, Trent Knobel three possessions (two contested), three hit-outs and no clearances and Neil Hein (four possessions and six hit-outs).
Among Queensland ruckmen who have played at other clubs, the Zac Smith had 16 possessions (eight contested), 14 hit-outs and two clearances.
Tom Hickey, now at St.Kilda and among the best ruckmen in the League this year, had 14 possessions (five contested), six hit-outs and one clearance in his first game for the Gold Coast in 2011.
Shaun Hampson, ranked fifth in ruck hit-outs this year playing with Richmond, had two possessions (one contested) and eight hit-outs on debut for Carlton in 2007.
Brent Renouf, a premiership ruckman at Hawthorn, had four possessions (one contested), four hit-outs and one clearance in his first game in 2008.
In other Queensland highlights of Round 19:
• The Sam Reid comeback fairytale continued when he kicked a career-best three goals to go with 11 possessions in GWS’s demolition of Richmond. It was the first time in 29 AFL games the Sunshine Coast utility has been a multiple goal-kicker. And with only four rounds to the finals the 25-year-old is giving himself every chance of holding his spot in the talent-laden Giants side for the business end of the season.
• Brendan Whitecross is doing likewise in his comeback. He had 19 possessions and seven marks in Hawthorn’s win over Carlton.
• Aliir Aliir, too, continued to ensure his name is front and centre at the selection table after yet another strong showing for Sydney against Fremantle. He had an equal career-best 18 possessions and an equal career-best nine contested possessions. His possession count in his six AFL games has gone 6-10-15-16-18-18 as he grows in confidence.
• Nick Riewoldt earned 92 Champion Data ranking points for 16 possessions, eight marks and two goals in St.Kilda’s loss to North Melbourne.
• Dayne Zorko also picked up 92 CD points for 16 possessions, seven tackles and two goals for Brisbane against Port Adelaide.
• Jarrod Harbrow (19 possessions) and Alex Sexton (18 possessions) were among Gold Coast’s best in a last-kick loss to Melbourne,
• Lee Spurr had 16 possessions in his 100th AFL game for Fremantle against Sydney.
In the VFL, Wylie Buzza, who has had an injury-disrupted first season at Geelong, was named as the Cats’ best in the VFL after collecting 13 possessions, 23 hit-outs, six tackles and a goal against Frankston.
And in the NEAFL, Clay Cameron pushed hard for a recall to the Gold Coast Suns side when he kicked five goals and had 17 possessions to be named best in the Reserves’ big win over Redland.