John Smith

by Ed Harcourt

John Smith plays for Geelong. His disposal this season has been first class, his versatily around the grounds is respected by his peers, and his use of the ball in and around the packs is unusually very classy to watch. Over the past few seasons I’ve been a fan of his game, but in 2010 he’s gone a up another notch.

When the dominant reign of The Geelong Football Club draws to an end, John Smith probably won’t be mentioned by that croaky sounding voiceover guy in rhetoric-laden highlight reels produced by TV stations for finals series. You won’t hear

“Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Smith.”

He might never win a B&F, Brownlow, Norm Smith. He may never achieve anything that will nicely define his career. An adjective, a medal or a single act of brilliance.

Cam Mooney, the Big Hairy Cat,

“Rising Star Winner Joel Selwood,”

Harry Taylor’s mark in the dying seconds of the ’09 Grand Final,

Joel Corey’s smother in the ’07 Prelim to spark the rest of the team.

Matty Scarlett’s toepoke,

Chappy’s mark in ’07,


If his career were to end today, I’ll remember him as the forgotten champion, forgotten by the fans, and forgotten by the media (from what I understand, he is held in very high esteem by his coach and teammates). I’ll remember that in the 2007 Grand Final, when the game had yet to become an exhibition, he was possibly the most effective player.

His rebound in the final decisive term of the GF last year was crucial to the Geelong Premiership, but he never really got a significant nod outside the club.

His curse is to be non-descript, unassuming and efficient.

Who do I refer to?

Joel Corey? Is Smithy the John Smith I refer to?

No. I believe Joel Corey is recognised by the media as “underrated,” and his moniker is to be the guy that “flies under the radar,” because he plays in a midfield of absolute superstars. Being underrated is part of his public identity.

I’m talking about the player who is yet to be recognised for being unrecognised.

James Kelly.

In the game against Sydney, on more than one occasion I found myself remarking how good a season he is having. I think having Hunt back in the side has really allowed him to run through the midfield more. At one point, he dived headfirst into a pack, did some sort of blind turn commando roll out of the pack with the footy, dished it off and Geelong were quickly having a shot.

He had 22 touches, 11 contested, playing mostly off half-back. Certainly not record breaking by any means, especially when you consider Gaz had 18 CP, but Kelly doesn’t play on ball. And comparing stats of  Cats can sometimes be a pointless exercise.

Often I encounter footy media analyst types heading straight to the stats sheets for evidence that a particular player is “underrated” or offers some intangible quality to the game. When it comes to the Cats though, this might not get you very far. The boys from Skilled Stadium can, at times, dominate the game to such a degree, that stats are rendered meaningless.

The nature of John Smith’s contested ball winning is what I liked against the Swans, and it’s something I’ve always admired about him.  He does it with a touch of class.

His performances this year, and his efforts last year in J. Hunt’s absence have been fantastic, but the pundits haven’t, and probably never will, give the champ the credit he deserves. The same could be said of the fans. He has certainly been maligned over the years by many of my fellow Cat-Attackers, and not without good reason. But his nightmare season in 2006 when he was dropped to the reserves should now be a very distant memory.

My prediction: You’ll be reading a feature article in the Hun pretty soon on the man who nearly went to the Pies. If he keeps up this form for a couple of weeks, others will catch on.

Geelong has its fair share of underrated players, which is no surprise for a team with names like Ablett, Bartel, Chapman, Selwood etc. Boris Enright, Joel “Smithy” Corey are two that spring to mind, and that anonimity has paradoxically become part of their public identity. But for mine, the man who goes about his job, whatever it may be, and never really gets more than a cursory mention in the bests, is the man in the number 9 guernsey.

About Edward Harcourt

I'm 31 and I love the Cats!


  1. Your right Ed. I have always liked him. Have a look at the 2007 GF. He did some great things. Go Cats.

  2. Richard Jones says

    QUITE right, Ed.

    He’s a very good boy, J Kelly. I thought he was in our Best Two v the FlagPies last Friday nite. I’ve never been a CatAttacker to malign Kelly.

    It’s that big lug Blake I can’t stand. Why didn’t we offload him to the Swanettes last November so we could keep Mummy??

    Shane M. is as good a tap ruckman as The Lug and infinitely better around the ground.

  3. Richard – I reckon Blake got the better of Mummy at Kardinia Park recently and had a good game against the Pies. Should we reassess him?

    Love the boy Kelly.

Leave a Comment