Josh Smith and Zac Smith have walked a remarkably similar AFL path in 2017.
They have each hit an unexpected hurdle after outstanding seasons in 2016, and have shown the sort of character that would be delighted their coaches to bounce back superbly.
And they each had an outstanding Round 11 of the Toyota AFL premiership.
Zac Smith had 15 possessions, 33 hit-outs, three clearances and 117 Champion Data ranking points to play a critical role in Geelong’s Friday night win over Adelaide, getting the better of Crows big man Sam Jacobs.
And Josh Smith had 32 possessions, a career-best 14 marks and a season-high 107 ranking points to be among Collingwood’s best in their powerful win over Fremantle in Perth on Sunday.
This came after Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon had a four-goal blinder in their win over Hawthorn on Thursday night, which was covered here on Friday.
His Champion Data ranking score of 167 (re-calculated over the weekend from 166 on Thursday night) was the second-highest in the League for Round 11 behind GWS midfielder Josh Kelly (176) and the highest by a Queenslander this season.
So while Dixon was undoubtedly the Queensland player of the round, the Smiths will be rightfully very pleased too.
Zac Smith, 10th in the Geelong B&F last season, found himself dropped from the Cats line-up when they headed to the Gold Coast in Round 7. And that after he’d been forced to play in the VFL for the first time in Round 2 after being a late withdrawal due to injury in Round 1.
But he’s been a standout in the last four weeks. He was the only Geelong to poll in the Coach’s Association Player of the Year in Round 8, and from Rounds 8-11 has averaged 104.0 Champion Data ranking points.
He now sits sixth among Queenslanders in average Champion Data ranking points at 92.4, behind Dayne Zorko (110.2), Dayne Beams (104.4), Dixon (101.9), Nick Riewoldt (96.5) and Jarrod Harbrow (93.5).
Josh Smith, a remarkable 6th in the Collingwood B&F in his 2016 debut season after coming off the rookie list, was surprisingly dropped for the Round 5 Anzac Day clash.
But, like his namesake, he went straight back into the senior team in Round 6 and has been very good since then, bumping his average CD score from 67.3 in the first four rounds to 83.0 in the last six.
His CD century on Sunday was his first of the season, and his 32 possessions was the second-highest of his 28-game career.
While Dixon now sits third among Queenslanders on the Champion Data ranking list behind Zorko and Beams, he’s gone to the top of the AFL list for contested marks.
After five against the Hawks he has 29 for the season to lead West Coast’s Josh Kennedy (27), Cale Hooker (25), Jeremy Howe (24) and Jeremy McGovern (24).
Dixon also ranks equal fourth for marks inside 50. He has 30, equal with Taylor Walker and behind only Jack Riewoldt (40), Kennedy (37) and Jeremy Cameron (31).
Significantly, too, the bearded Port Adelaide power forwards ranks fifth in average Champion Data scores over the past five rounds to confirm coach Ken Hinkley’s claim he is in career-best form.
Dixon has averaged 123.3 CD points in Rounds 7-11, behind only Patrick Dangerfield (137.0), GWS’s Kelly (127.8), Tom Rockliff (125.6) and Dustin Martin (125.2).
Only 10 Queenslanders played in Round 11, when six clubs had the bye.
Alex Sexton, with 22 possessions, eight marks and a goal, earned 89 CD points in Gold Coast’s excellent home win over West Coast. Harbrow had 18 possessions and a great running goal, and Jesse Joyce six possessions.
Brendan Whitecross had 13 possessions for Hawthorn against Port, while Sam Reid had 10 possessions in his 15th consecutive win for GWS.
Fremantle’s Lachie Weller, tagged at half back by Collingwood on Sunday in recognition of his outstanding recent form, had 22 possessions in his side’s loss. Lee Spurr had 13 possessions.