‘Underrated’ AFL champion calls it quits
Sydney Swans defender Nick Smith has called an end to his 211-game career after injuries took their toll on the 13-year veteran.
Smith tore his hamstring in round 21 of the 2018 season, an injury which has required three rounds of surgery.
But despite his attempts to make it back on the field, Smith was unable to overcome the injury, playing no part in the 2019 season and has decided end his career at 31.
Smith debuted in 2008, and became a premiership winner in 2012.
He was also recognised with All-Australian honours in 2014.
Smith was just the 32nd player in the history of the Swans to reach 200 AFL games, often marking up on the opposition's most damaging forwards.
Swans coach John Longmire said Smith had always been completely selfless, both on and off the field.
"From the moment Nick arrived at the Sydney Swans, we knew we had a special person," Longmire said. "Nick was a master of the small defender role.
"For over a decade at selection we just placed Nick's name up on the whiteboard next to some of the best small-to-medium forwards that have ever played our game: Steve Johnson, Eddie Betts, Toby Greene, Robbie Gray, Stephen Milne, Luke Breust, Mark LeCras are some that come to mind.
"And who could forget his battles on the biggest home-and-away and finals stages with his old ex-school mate Cyril Rioli."
Smith said it was a sad way to end his career but that he would leave with plenty of great memories.
"It's been the most fulfilling journey of my life," he said. "I feel extremely lucky to be involved with this club.
Longmire said Smith "was one of the best blokes we've had at this club" and praised him for being an honest and hardworking person.
"I had an old coach that used to say to me 'one of the greatest compliments you can say about a person is that you'd like them to marry your daughter' well, this bloke here is probably the best example of that," Longmire said. "He's just that sort of bloke. It's a sad day but it's also a great reflection on a fantastic career for a fantastic person."
Smith appeared touched by Longmire's words and said he finished his career with no animosity.
"From someone I respect enormously, it means a lot," Smith said. To hear what Horse just said, when I came into the club, if I could have chosen those words to be said about me, I would leave a happy person. I'll leave this place just thankful for everything. Those words meant an awful lot to me."
Smith said the hamstring injury was always going to be an uphill battle at 31 to get back on the field.
Fans were quick to honour Smith for his career.
One of the decade's most underrated players. Congrats Nick Smith on an excellent career. https://t.co/IVMnetFJk7— Mike Wise (@wisey_9) August 14, 2019
End of an era. Played Smooch!!! Simply would not have won the 2012 flag without your efforts on Cyril that day. Out and out champion small defender and a tremendous human being. “Nick Smith calls time”https://t.co/bDksRRs6us— Adam Spencer (@adambspencer) August 14, 2019
Think about the players Nick Smith regularly took on in a spot you get burnt often... Betts, Rioli, Lecras, Stevie J, Milne... rarely beaten at his best. Not many better small defenders, his magnet would never have moved from the whiteboard. https://t.co/nQS6J5AXNM— Adam Curley (@AdamCurleyMedia) August 14, 2019
It's been a tough run for the Swans after fellow champion Jarrad McVeigh announced his retirement following this season while Smith's fellow defensive stalwart Heath Grundy called time on his career earlier this year.
Another key member of the 2012 flag-winning outfit, midfielder Kieren Jack, could also hang up the boots at season's end.
- with AAP