Archie Smith’s long road back to the AFL stage

By Peter Blucher

Archie Smith will unknowingly look to draw on the example of a player 28 years older and 25cm shorter when he returns to the Brisbane Lions side after a 671-day absence tomorrow night.

Tony Lynn, a diminutive 178cm utility player from Morningside, was a staggering 2079 days between his sixth game with the Brisbane Bears in 1988 and his seventh game with Carlton in 1994.

It is a record for time between games by a Queenslander and sits top of a list onto which Smith will slot in at #10 when he takes on Hawthorn at the Gabba tomorrow night.

Lynn, now 51, will be unknown to 23-year-old Smith, who was eight months old when Lynn finished his two-part career, but is the perfect example of the persistence sometimes needed to make it at AFL level.

Lynn kicked three goals in his third AFL game for Brisbane against Richmond at Carrara before blowing out his knee in his sixth game, effectively ending the first part of his career.

He went back to Morningside in 1989 before joining Central Districts in the SANFL, where he played four years, won a best and fairest and picked up a Fos Williams Medal as best afield for South Australia against West Australia.

A cousin of Michael Voss, he also starred for a combined Queensland/NT side that beat Tasmania in Hobart in 1993 to catch the eyes of Carlton recruiters.

Coincidentally in a week in which the AFL gave a re-birth to the Mid-Season Draft, Lynn was snapped up by Carlton in the 1993 Mid-Season Draft.

It was the same Mid-Season Draft in which the Brisbane Bears took ex-Geelong captain Damien Bourke, Hawthorn picked up Queenslander Simon Luhrs, relocated Queenslander Tim Perkins went from Centrals in the SANFL to the Adelaide Crows.

Lynn played 20 AFL games in 1994 in the back pocket with the Blues, including a qualifying final, six games in 1995 in a side that won a grand final by ten goals, and one more in 1996.

He returned home, playing first at Morningside and later Mt Gravatt, where he won the Joe Grant Medal in the Vultures’ 2002 Grand Final win over Southport and retired.

His 33-game career, while perhaps not all that he may have hoped for, was a damn sight better than the six-game career it might have been.

Smith’s circumstances are entirely different – he’s been kept out of the Lions side by the good form and durability of ruckmen Stefan Martin and Oscar McInerney – but the lessons of persistence are undeniable.

The 23-year-old 203cm basketball convert who was a former junior representative teammate of NBA superstar Ben Simmons made his AFL debut right back in Round 19 2016.

It was a standout, arguably the best first game ever by a Queenslander, as he had 19 possessions (17 contested), 30 hit-outs, nine clearances and five tackles in a 94-point Gabba loss to Port Adelaide.

It certainly justified the faith Lions scouts had shown in him and the club’s decision to give him a chance via the 2014 AFL Rookie Draft.

But after three games in 2016 and six games in 2017 he has had to bide his time in the NEAFL. Until now.

Having signed a two-year contract extension this year that ties him to the Lions until the end of 2021, he will partner 32-year-old Martin in the ruck against Hawthorn after 24-year-old McInerney was officially ‘managed’ after a shoulder problem last week.

Smith, in excellent NEAFL form, will be the 23rd Queenslander to return to AFL football after an absence of a year or more.

Second on the list behind Lynn is Gold Coaster Marc Woolnough, who was 1414 days between his second and third games at Geelong due to knee problems.

Gympie product Lachie Keeffe was 1344 days between his 40th game at Collingwood in 2014 and his 41st game with the Giants in 2018 due to a two-ban for taking an illegal substance.

Keeffe has been recalled to the GWS side this week to play the Gold Coast.

Sam Michael, a one-time Brisbane big man who later played at Essendon after the club’s playing stocks were savaged, was 1074 days between his third and fourth games.

And Collingwood’s Josh Thomas, suspended alongside Keeffe, was 1038 days between his 32nd and 33rd game but is now a fixture in a side which played in the grand final last year.

Joel Tippett was 965 days between games at Gold Coast and North Melbourne, and Craig Potter 946 days between games at Sydney to sit sixth and seventh on the list.

At eight is the only Queenslander to twice spent more than a year off the scene due to injury.

Jake Spencer, a Townsville product who spent 10 years for 38 AFL games at Melbourne and is now playing at Aspley in the NEAFL, was 727 days between his eighth game in 2010 and his ninth game in 2012. And 594 days between his 36th game in 2015 and his 37th game in 2017.

At nine is ex-Southport junior Steven Lawrence, who was 706 days between his 13th game in 1995 and his 14th game in 1997, with Smith slotting in at #10.

Others on the list are Collingwood utility Adam Oxley (657), Fitzroy/Brisbane defender Michael Gibson (652), Gold Coast forward Andrew Boston (636), North Melbourne turned Melbourne pair Corey Wagner (616) and Brayden Preuss (599), four-club journeyman ruckman turned Lions assistant-coach Ben Hudson (596), Geelong/Melbourne utility Clint Bizzell (582), Hawthorn defender turned North Melbourne development coach Brendan Whitecross (576), Collingwood/Brisbane rover Gary Shaw, Brisbane premiership ruckman Clark Keating (561), Brisbane’s Claye Beams (406), Gold Coast’s Alik Magin (405) and Gold Coast/Geelong ruckman Zac Smith (365).

Smith was exactly one year out of the game due to a knee injury.

Fellow Queenslander Ben Keays dodged a spot on this list with his return to the Brisbane side to play Hawthorn tomorrow night.

The former Queensland Under 18 skipper will be nine days short of a year between his 28th game in Round 12 last year and his 29th game tomorrow night.

Also on the Lions list, Jacob Allison is 391 days since his eighth game in Round 7 last year, and Matt Eagles 371 days since his fourth game in Round 10 last year.


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