New Geelong Cats man Isaac Smith will pull on the boots for his sixth preliminary final this Friday night against Melbourne, but this one feels different for the man known as the ‘smiling assassin’, who has found a new role down the highway in 2021.
The ex-Hawthorn superstar has already played in five preliminary finals from 2011 to 2015, which resulted in three premierships, but this weekend will be his first one in the blue and white hoops, and he admits that the week before the big dance is often the hardest.
“Prelims are the hardest games to win. It’s the anxiety of winning and the opportunity of playing next week,” Smith said.
Yet, the 32-year-old, who is jokingly part of the Geelong ‘Dad Army’ as the side is filled with doting fathers, knows that as his career progresses, the more experienced his body becomes at handling the big games.
“I see it as an advantage. The older you get, the better you get at preparing and understanding your body.”
The Cats, who face Melbourne for the third time this season and the second time since round 23, know they’ve got some work to do to make up for previous mistakes to compete against a viable Demons outfit.
“I thought our last few weeks of the home and away season was pretty average,” Smith said.
“They’ve [Melbourne] got an incredible midfield. Lever and May certainly made us look like fools in round 23.”
“There’s pretty good players everywhere to be honest.”
And Smith says his Cats have utilised the hub life to reconnect and review what they need to do next to succeed.
“It’s nice to be locked up in the hub and get to spend some time together to work through some things that may have shocked us in week one.”
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Although Geelong has suffered another injury blow with key midfielder Brandon Parfitt going down with a hamstring tear against GWS, Smith knows that there is midfield depth to reassemble the middle.
“He was one of those players I underrated a fair bit coming from Hawthorn. Once I saw what he did on-field, I knew he was important to us.
“But we’ve got a few blokes in the wings chomping at the bit so we will be able to structure up,” he said.
Looking back to when he first arrived at the Cattery from Hawthorn, Smith had high expectations of Geelong, who he has competed against in finals series since 2011.
“Coming over, I was hoping and thinking we should be going deep into finals and giving it a bit of a challenge.”
And since then, they’ve made the number 7 feel comfortable and involved in taking the club to its 11th preliminary final in 15 years.
“The club have been brilliant, the players, coaching staff have been very respectful. They’ve been great in how they’ve let me integrate into the club,” Smith said.
Now the smiling assassin is ecstatic to be able to compete deep into the finals only a year after departing Hawthorn.
“It’s nice to be playing in a prelim again, although different colours and different teammates. It’ll be fun.”
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