A Decade On: Brad Smith
- Wednesday, 13 August 2014
“We’d been underperforming for a long time and I hated that”
On Grand Final day in 2003 Subiaco found themselves down against West Perth, down on the scoreboard and down a player, their full-forward to be exact.
The majority of Lions fans would argue the magnet with Brad Smith’s name on it was one of the more important ones on the whiteboard that season.
As the focal point of the forward line, the 194cm, 97 kg goal kicking machine had already slotted 84 goals before Grand Final day.
“In the first few minutes of the game someone got tackled into me and came across my knee and injured my medial ligament so I had to sit the whole game on the pine.” remembers Smith with frustration.
With ice on his knee, Smith could only watch on as yet another chance at a premiership eluded the Lions.
“I was pretty hungry the next year because we hadn’t achieved anything for a long time at Subi, I was involved in the squad in the late 90’s and I just don’t think we had a good football culture then.”
Smith spent the next six weeks recovering from the first of what would later become a much talked about string of knee injuries.
If he wasn’t 100% fit going into 2004, the full forward did well to hide it opening the season with a six goal haul.
Smith set a new personal best in 2004 as he claimed his second Bernie Naylor medal as the WAFL’s leading goal kicker with 109 goals including ones he kicked during the finals.
Smith’s mix of speed, size and strength combined with first class delivery from his well-drilled mates in the midfield was enough the overcome any defender as he surpassed the century mark for the first of three times in his career.
Smith is quick to remind people that his job in 2004 was made a lot easier by his silky skilled team mates, in particular that season’s Sandover Medalist Alistair Pickett.
“I’d lick my lips when the Little Genius got it, because he could find me anywhere, he could hit it over the top or the little pass in front, the hit up pass, he could see what I was going to do before I knew what I was going to do, Ali would put the ball to a spot for me to run on to.”
Lead by the likes of Pickett, Marc Webb and a teenage Matt Priddis, the Lions were a well-oiled machine in 2004 and rightfully booked their spot against Claremont in the Grand Final.
Smith pushed the agonizing memories of 12 months prior to the back of his mind and in front of 22 thousand spectators he made his way to the full forward position on Subiaco Oval.
By his side was teammate Sam Larkins who was lining up in just his 15th WAFL game.
Larkins had booted just 10 goals in his short WAFL career.
He would go on to establish a reputation as a big game player (13 goals in 3 Grand Finals) but in 2004 he was hardly factored into the pre-game planning of Tigers coach Ashley Prescott.
“Sam Larkins was our secret weapon… We really hadn’t unleashed him as a full time forward until the grand final so we put him next to Brad Smith. A fair bit of attention went to Brad and that really released Sam who was responsible for probably three or four of our first goals.“ Lions coach Peter German said.
Smith also recalls the coaching move fondly.
“The way they played they would drop a guy back in front of me, some one would leave one of our forwards to come to me. Sammy got free, he was smart enough to find space and he kicked three goals in the first quarter which then meant some one had to be accountable for him and it left me one on one again. So it was a good little tactic for us.” Larkins ended the game with 4 goals.
Tigers defenders Michael Warren and Trent Carroll took turns in trying to blanket Smith who finished with five majors as the Lions rolled the Tigers by 48 points.
It was the 15th time in his 22 outings that season that Smith had booted five goals or more.
12 months after the heartbreak of watching his teammates stumble, Smith took to the makeshift podium on the broadcast wing of Subiaco oval, he ducked his towering frame and was donned with his first WAFL premiership medallion.
“I always wanted to be a part of a premiership, firstly for the club, because it had been 16 years, I hadn’t won one so I wanted to be a part of that, that was my motivation.”
“We’d been underperforming for a long time and I hated that, so that’s what drove me.”
Smith recalls bringing the premiership cup back into the clubrooms after the game.
“That was a euphoric feeling. That’s one thing that we’ve always been the champs at – celebrating.”
“Getting around guys like Jeff Lind, Kim Williamson, Alby Hawkins, Mickey Bailey all those guys, it felt really special for them.”
And like so many of his premiership teammates Smith credits the Lions success that year to German’s tough approach.
He says his verbal sprays were the best he’s ever heard from a coach.
“I remember a few pearlers, but I was never on the end of one because they reckon I could never cop one and I think they were right, I was always too sensitive and I’d go have a sulk.”
“Myself, Todd Holmes and Caine Hayes, we were always too sensitive so we never copped one, but I remember he gave me a look once, he gave me a look and said ‘yeah, I wouldn’t look at me either Brad’ but as far as sprays went it was Coss (Chad Cossum) I had to be careful of, he wasn't shy giving out a cook."
Smith, who now works as a recruiter for the West Coast Eagles, will be attending the ten year reunion of the 2004 grand final win.
““I’m really looking forward to seeing every one, getting them all together and reminiscing about old times, it’s been ten years, it should be a good night.”
Fans and members can rub shoulders with Smith and all the other players and coaches from that successful season by booking their spot at the function to be held at the clubrooms following the Lions last home game on the 31st of August.
Click here for more information or call Brooke on 92089999