From cleaning coal to draft goal for Brock Smith


“As soon as he’s got in the tractor it started sliding on the gravel back. It slid down the hill.”

Leanne told Brock that his dad had been taken to the Alfred Hospital.

“We’re going to have to get over,” Leanne told her son.

Brock recalled: “She was like ‘don’t worry, don’t worry.’ It was quite stressful at the time.”

Power-packed: Draft prospect Brock Smith.Credit:Eddie Jim

Trevor got lucky. He broke his back but lived to tell the tale and is able to walk. He went back to fencing briefly, but the work was too strenuous on his back.

Instead Trevor is doing some work in the Yallourn Power Station. That’s also where Brock has been working a few days a week.

The Gippsland Power captain is as tough and committed as they come in this year’s draft pool. Tipped by industry sources to fall late in the second round of the draft later this month, Smith is a hard-nosed lock-down defender who makes sure his direct opponent earns his kicks.

He prides himself on “just being the most competitive and the hardest worker. Going out there giving 100 per cent every time.”

Smith finished school last year but has deferred his university studies in exercise and sports science at Federation University.

Instead he’s been getting his hands dirty at the power plant, where his uncle runs a business. Brock’s bosses are all too happy to give him some of the more physically challenging tasks. As a fit, young footballer, he doesn’t have an excuse to get out of them.

“The jobs I usually get given are the hard ones,” Smith said.

“All sorts of different stuff. A bit of coal cleaning, a bit of boiler cleaning, some drain digging. Anything they really need around the plant.

“Digging out the drains, they’re no good. A couple of feet worth of just all this stuff you’ve got to dig out … a build-up of everything.”

At the coal-face: Brock Smith.

At the coal-face: Brock Smith.Credit:Eddie Jim

It wouldn’t be quite correct however to say that Smith has always been in good nick.

In the last home and away game of the season, Smith felt unwell. He was nauseous, felt tired, and was struggling to hold down food.

“I played, I was crook, I could barely stand up. I didn’t play too well, funnily enough,” he said.

“And then I got it checked out the next week, they said [it was] tonsilitis.”

But the initial diagnosis was wrong. Smith had glandular fever.

“They gave me some antibiotics, and it didn’t really have much of an effect because antibiotics don’t work for glandular fever.”

Blood tests eventually confirmed what was wrong. Smith lost about four and ½ kilograms, and was on limited duties at the recent draft combine.

He has had to gradually regain the weight he lost, while still being diligent about the types of food he is eating, mindful of his skin folds.

He is that sort of person. A leader, he hasn’t been afraid to have tough conversations with Power teammates when they haven’t followed team rules and structures.

Smith grew up a Collingwood supporter. Both his father and his grandfather were Pies fans, so Brock didn’t have a choice. His favourite players included Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, and Leigh Brown – who would later become Smith’s coach at Power, and then Vic Country.

“He’s been really great for us, really supportive,” Smith said.

“I learned a lot from him too. He’s really caring. Treats every player on the list individually, he’ll get to know everyone, give everyone the same attention. He’ll really help you with everything along the way with everything you need, even if it’s not footy-related.”

For Smith, being drafted would be the materialisation of a long-term dream.

“Ever since I watched my first AFL game at a very young age it was always something that I wanted to do. I’ve played footy my whole life.”

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