Zac Smith of the Gold Coast contests in the ruck against Andrew Browne of the Tigers during the round nine VFL match between the Coburg Tigers and the Gold Coast at Highgate Recreation Reserve on June 12, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
Zac Smith of the Gold Coast contests in the ruck against Andrew Browne of the Tigers during the round nine VFL match between the Coburg Tigers and the Gold Coast at Highgate Recreation Reserve on June 12, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Lucas Dawson

Smith to make Suns to debut

IS not so long ago that Zac Smith was considered to be an up-and-coming player in the round ball game where he turned out for Southside United.

Tonight the youngster is a part of history as he steps on to the Gabba in the Gold Coast Suns' first match in AFL.

Smith, who has already been named in the Suns leadership group despite never playing in AFL, missed the pre-season NAB Cup games but has impressed the Suns coaching staff that much he has been given his opportunity.

“I was very excited when I got the news,” the 21-year-old admitted.

While the team list named Smith as one of the Suns' forwards the youngster was reluctant to say what position he was likely to play.

“I'm not sure if I'll be rotating with (Josh) Fraser (former Collingwood ruckman),” the 205cm and 102kg youngster said.

There is expected to be a big crowd at the Gabba for the match and Smith is positive of some Rockhampton support with his mum and dad plus his grandparents swelling the numbers for the game against Carlton.

Smith missed the NAB Cup due to injury but is certain those problems are now behind him.

“I twisted an ankle pretty badly and bruised the bone and that is what kept me out of the NAB Cup,” he said.

That did not stop him from watching the Suns make a big impression in the Cup's round-robin matches where the Suns beat one of the top sides.

“They went really well,” he said, “I don't think Sydney (Swans) was expecting that.”

However, the NAB Cup and the AFL Premiership are two different things and he now has the chance to run out in front of a possible full house.

“I think the biggest crowd I have played in front of is 6000 and that was for Karmichael Hunt's first game,” he said.

Even though tonight's match is at Brisbane, Smith said there is plenty of excitement from supporters on the Gold Coast.

“Everybody is buzzing and now we just want to start playing footy,” Smith said.

With the Suns under the spotlight the war of words has started with Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna claiming Hunt will cut players in half with his tackling and then later in the week former great Wayne Carey waded into the argument by saying Hunt was not ready to play in the AFL.

“We don't really take any notice of what is being said,” was how Smith shrugged off the comments in the media. “Karmichael is a very driven guy and has shocked everyone (with his ability).”

“He is still a work in progress.”

Smith said his preparation for today's match will be fairly relaxed.

“I will take it easy and sleep in, relax and watch some television. I will have healthy things to eat like vegetables and carbohydrates.”

The young player said there will be no team bus taking the side to the Gabba.

“Then I will head to Brisbane by probably catching a lift off (Josh) Fraser,” Smith said.

WHILE Glenmore Bulls open their AFL Capricornia season with a game at Stenlake Park this afternoon against rivals Panthers, Bulls president Peter Moore said there will a lot of people keen to get home and watch the Suns game to see how Smith goes.

The Bulls are in the unusual position of being able to boast two AFL players coming through the ranks.

Smith follows in the footsteps of Gavin Urquhart who is with North Melbourne.

Not that Smith had a glittering career with the Bulls, the young player's talent was spotted too early for that.

“Zac only played two senior games with us,” Moore said.

“Tyson Payne asked him to come along and play for us.”

It may have been a brief association with the Bulls but Moore is aware it gives the club a higher profile as it has produced two players for the top level of the game.

“He's done so well, he has been a professional player for the past two years,” he said.

Moore said it is interesting that Smith will make his debut at full forward rather than in the ruck.

“The Suns will try and manage him,” he said, “they will use him around the ground.”

Moore said that when Smith steps on to the park at the Gabba for his debut he will become the second tallest player in the competition.

Despite his size the Bulls president believes it is the youngster's athletic ability that will impress.

AFL Capricornia's development manager Scott Smithwick is not just delighted for Smith but also for the code in the region.

“It's fantastic, the amount of interest in the Gold Coast game, it has to be good for the sport,” Smithwick said.

While much of the local interest is about Smith, Smithwick said the profile of the sport has been lifted since Karmichael Hunt made his announcement he was switching codes.

Smithwick said playing in front of a big crowd will test the youngster. “It is definitely a massive step and I would encourage him to enjoy it and try and soak up the atmosphere,” he said.

Smithwick said the young player had been very successful with the Suns in the Victoria Football League. “They (Suns coaches) thought he was ready (for AFL) last year,” he said.

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