AFL Round 9 Wrap

Geelong ruckman Zac Smith has had a weird season. But weird turned to wonderful over the weekend.

Smith produced arguably the best performance of his 94-game career when it mattered most for the Cats in a nostalgic home win over the Western Bulldogs Friday night.

He had career-high statistics for disposals (25), hit-outs (48) and tackles (10) to play a pivotal role as Geelong snapped a three-game losing streak to mark the opening of their new $91million grandstand at Simonds Stadium with a win over the Western Bulldogs.

Smith shared top billing among the Queenslanders for Round 9 of the Toyota AFL premiership with Brisbane captain Dayne Beams, who had a career-high 40 possessions in his side’s disappointing home loss to Adelaide Saturday night.

Smith polled 136 Champion Data points to rank sixth overall for Round 9 behind only Hawthorn’s 50-possession midfielder Tom Mitchell (158), Geelong teammate Patrick Dangerfield (151), Richmond’s Dusty Martin (144), Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury (142) and Sydney’s Dan Hanneberry (137).

Beams, back from a two-game injury layoff, was equal 11th with 132 ranking points.

Smith’s breakout game was the culmination of an excellent pre-season that took its weird turn prior to the start of the Cats’ third match in the JLT Community series on 12 March.

Playing Essendon at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo, he copped a nasty blow in the warm-up that would have ongoing ramifications.

Although he battled through until halftime he was not right and was put in cotton wool at halftime by coach Chris Scott. And so began the weird sequence.

He was named as first ruck for the Round 1 clash with Fremantle in Perth but was never going to play. He didn’t even travel to Perth.

Then, despite playing every game last season except one when he was rested and finishing 10th in the B&F, Smith was omitted from the Round 2 side to play North as coach Scott preferred Rhys Stanley in the ruck.

The Cats reasoned that after a month without any football the former Gold Coast Suns big man needed a run in the VFL.

He was best afield with 25 possessions and 48 hit-outs while on the same weekend fellow Queenslander Braydon Preuss had 48 hit-outs in just his second game for North in a one-point loss to Geelong.

In Rounds 3-4-5-6 Smith was preferred and it was Stanley who was sent back to the VFL.

After the Round 6 loss to Collingwood Scott travelled a 25-man squad to the Gold Coast for the clash with the Suns, and when he finalised his team Stanley was back in. Smith watched his current side cop a lesson from his old side.

The two ruckmen played together for the only time this year in the Round 8 loss to Essendon, when Smith was the only Geelong player to poll votes in the Coach’s Association Player of the Year award.

Then, with Stanley sidelined by injury last weekend, Smith relished the chance to do the job solo in what was a watershed moment in the club’s season after a lamentable loss the weekend before.

Playing the defending premiers, he was a real influence.

In addition to his career-high numbers in possessions, hit-outs and tackles he had eight clearances and 14 contested possessions, which each ranked second-best in his career.

His 25 possessions against the Dogs was his best since Round 7 2011 when, in just his sixth game of AFL football, the soccer convert from Rockhampton had 22 touches in the Suns shock win over Brisbane in Q-Clash #1.

His 48 hit-outs surpassed his previous best of 41 against Hawthorn in Round 4 this year as he continued to build on his relationship with the Cats brilliant midfield duo of Dangerfield and Joel Selwood.

At the Gabba Beams topped 30 possessions for the 47th time in his 135th game and topped 40 for the first time. He also had an equal career-high 21 contested possessions in a lone hand for a Lions side badly beaten after a promising first quarter.

He became just the sixth player in the combined Brisbane Bears/Lions history to have 40 possessions in a game behind Tom Rockliff (8 times), David Bain (2), Michael McLean (1), Luke Power (1) and Pearce Hanley (1).

But the story was very much for the opposite for Beams’ younger brother Claye.

The desperately unlucky defender, who has missed more than twice as many games as he has played through injury, copped a hamstring strain early in the second quarter and took no further part.

It is not a bad one but will see Beams missed this weekend’s clash with Collingwood in Melbourne.

With the Lions having a bye the following weekend it is hoped he could be available for Round 12.

Dayne Zorko continued his excellent form with 26 possessions and two goals for the Lions to collect 123 Champion Data ranking points. It was his seventh CD century in nine games.

Harris Andrews collected 14 possessions, seven one-percenters and a season-high 90 ranking points, while Matt Hammelmann, in his first game of the season, had eight possessions and kicked his first AFL goal.

Tom Bell had 16 possessions and five tackles, Ben Keays 16 possessions and four tackles and Eric Hipwood nine possessions and a career-high six tackles.

Sam Gilbert, finishing himself in the unlikely role of a makeshift second ruckman for St.Kilda, had 22 possessions, including a team-high 14 contested possessions, plus three hit-outs, four clearances and six one-percenters in their bad loss to Sydney.

Nick Riewoldt had 19 possessions and three marks in the same game as Tom Hickey continues toi recover from a knee injury.

In the same game Sydney’s Kurt Tippett got his injury-disrupted season on track with a good second half, finishing with 12 disposals, eight hit-outs and a goal. He could easily have had three goals.

GWS Giants’ good luck charm Sam Reid kept his remarkable run going when he played in his 13th consecutive win for the League’s youngest club and collected 13 possessions and two goals.

The injury-plagued Reid was on the losing side in his first 14 games for the Giants, but hasn’t played in a losing side since Round 15 2013.

Josh Smith had a day to remember when he had 22 possessions and 11 marks in Collingwood’s superb comeback win over Hawthorn, and kicked the clinching goal in the final seconds. It was his first goal of the season as he ranked among the Magpies’ best.

Brendan Whitecross, playing his 99th game for Hawthorn, had 12 possessions and five marks.

Josh Wagner’s topsy-turvy season continued when, after a magnificent win over Adelaide in Adelaide in his comeback game in Round 8, Melbourne slumped to a bad loss to North. He had 12 disposals and seven tackles.

Lachie Weller was among Fremantle’s best in their come-from-behind win over Carlton in Perth with 26 possessions, while Lee Spurr had 10 possessions.


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