By Beth Newman
This time last year, Scorpions ruckman, Archie Smith could not even sit through a quarter of Aussie Rules.
The son of former NBA and NBL Player, Andre Moore, had played basketball since the age of 5, and his major concern was deciding which of eight US college scholarships he would accept.
Footy was the furthest thing from his mind, with Smith saying he hadn’t even watched a game, let alone picked up a Sherrin, before.
When Lions academy manager, Luke Curran and talent identification officer, Ashley Drake, approached Smith after a basketball game to give Aussie Rules, he was the last person who thought he could make a go of a new sport, let alone make the U-18 Scorpions side less than a year on.
“I wouldn’t have thought it at all,” he said.
“I was always going to play basketball and I’d never even watched a game til last year as well.
“I didn’t think I’d be in the state team at all.”
Smith reluctantly agreed to go down for a bit of kicking practice, and the game grew on him from there, with the young gun playing his first game for the Lions Academy against the Redland reserves in January.
“I picked up my first football in about August last year,” he said.
“I wasn’t too keen but they got me down for kicks and I kept going for kicks and started enjoying it.”
While some people might baulk at the idea of starting a new sport at 17, Smith said the opportunity to start from scratch had really appealed to him.
“I took it as a challenge and I just wanted to get better,” he said.
“Hopefully I’ll get to the level I was in basketball and keep improving from there.”
The Mt Gravatt player said the transition had been made easier with some tips from current and former Lions players.
“I like the fact that I was thrown in the deep end. It’s fast-tracked my improvement, playing with guys who have mastered the game,” he said.
“From the start, the guys who recruited me were great in the fact that they pretty much got all the professionals – Jamie Charman, Daniel Merrett, Stefan Martin, and the coaches as well, to help me out to go through my game with me and tell me what people are looking for,” he said.
“It’s all pretty helpful – the small things that I don’t know that they can point them out.”
Smith also had the chance to play alongside Brisbane veteran, Simon Black, and Brent Staker as part of the Lions reserves side in the NEAFL ANZAC match, which he said was “surreal.”
If Smith does manage to crack it at the elite level, he wouldn’t be the first basketballer to make the leap, with Sydney’s Kurt Tippett and Brisbane’s Stefan Martin among a number of AFL players with basketball backgrounds.
And at the start of this season, North Melbourne signed US college basketballer, Eric Wallace, as an international rookie.
Smith said the biggest difficulty he’d found in changing sports was developing the game sense.
“In basketball, I knew where I was running and It’s just that little bit harder (in footy) because I’m so raw, knowing where to turn and where to go on the field and those natural tendencies,” he said.
“The jumping is very similar to basketball, but it’s a bit more physical and I enjoy it a lot.”
Smith has certainly come a long way in less than a year, and now says he is hooked on Aussie Rules,
“This time last year, I couldn’t watch a quarter and now I’m following teams and I know players,” he said.
“I’m always looking at the latest stories, checking scores and watching videos on YouTube.
“I’ve become hooked.
While Smith is hoping to ultimately get drafted this season, if it doesn’t work out, he said he would still be able to accept a college scholarship as an over ager.
“I’m still tossing up and hopefully I’ll just play as well as I can and see if I have a shot (at AFL) and then make a decision from there,” he said.
“Entering the draft would be the absolute goal but there are no guarantees for anyone. I just want to put myself in the best physical and mental condition and keep improving.
“If an AFL career doesn’t happen, I still have another chance to go to college.”