• Smooch and Hanners reach 50 games

    One arrived via the rookie list and one burst on to the scene at 18; but both Nick Smith and Dan Hannebery will play their 50th games at the SCG against Brisbane tomorrow. It is a tale of two very different avenues to the AFL but two equally courageous and talented footballers whose importance to the Swans team of today and the bright future of the club cannot be underestimated. While Hannebery?s 2010 Rising Star Award has (deservedly) earned Hannebery high public recognition for the teen?s explosive start to his career, Smith has been subjected to much less attention. He would almost be odds-on favourite to claim the ?Most Underrated Footballer Award? ? If only commentators would stop calling him ?Jesse Smith?.

    A talented cricketer who dominated at junior levels, Nick Smith could easily be playing in a baggy green had he not decided his passion lay with an oval ball rather than a round one. A right-arm leg spinner, Smith has career best figures of 8-14 and is believed to be one of only four cricketers in the history of Melbourne's Associated Public Schools competition to take 100 wickets. But he pursued an AFL career and after representing Vic Metro in the under-18 national championships, he was picked up at number 15 in the 2007 Rookie Draft.

    When promoted to the Swans? senior list at the beginning of 2008, one Swans official described the then 19-year old Smith as a cross between emerging star Kieren Jack and club legend Paul Kelly for his Kamikaze attack on the ball. And it appears not much has changed. He made his debut in Round 5 at Skilled Stadium against the Cats. It was one of the Swans? many fruitless and forgettable trips to Geelong before last week?s record-breaking win, but all Smith remembers from his debut was that his first possession was a throw. He played one more game for the season before being elevated to the senior list for 2009.

    Regular reserves watchers got to see Smith learn and grow in the Canberra competition before he broke through to play the final 11 games of the 2009 season and was rewarded with a two year contract. 2010 was a breakout year for Smith as he cemented a regular spot in the side, playing as a tagger and usually tasked with shutting down the opposition?s most dangerous player. He played on, and was rarely beaten, by the likes of Luke Hodge, Daniel Giansiracusa, Mark Le Cras, Stevie Johnson, Stephen Hill, Eddie Betts and Alan Didak just to name a few.

    By the beginning of this year Smith would have to have been one of the first selected in the side each week. His consistency and reliability belies his 23 years and relatively short 49-game career. Although he may not be lauded by the wide AFL community just yet, you can be assured that his efforts are noticed within the club?s coaching staff who rate him highly; and by the Swans' faithful who love the way he answers every question with ?Definitely? in his laconic drawl.

    While Smith?s 50 games have taken persistence and at some points, patience, Dan Hannebery has raced to 50 games with sheer determination and a drive to constantly improve. ?Chit-chat? (have a conversation with him and you?ll understand) was drafted by the Swans at pick 30 in 2008, but was always going to remain in Melbourne in 2009 to finish school at Xavier College. What was a surprise however, was his selection for the Carlton game in Round 16 that year while he was still living in Melbourne. Hannebery had played a handful of games for the Swans reserves while in Sydney during the school holidays and was a stand out at that level. Paul Roos decided to give him a chance and he didn?t take a backward step, knocking Judd down in his first contest in the centre square. He played out the year, training in Melbourne and flying to Sydney for games, exciting everyone who saw him play.

    After a turbulent off-season and a few brushes with the law (and the Swans? leadership group), he played his first game for 2010 in Round 2 against Adelaide, dominating and picking up the Rising Star nomination for that round. As the season progressed, Hannebery launched himself into favouritism for the Award with best on ground performances against North Melbourne, Hawthorn and Fremantle where he also collected top Brownlow votes. What was perhaps more impressive from the teenager was his ability to play with a serious shoulder injury sustained against Fremantle at the SCG as he missed only two more games for the season. His Rising Star win was the first for the Swans since Adam Goodes and cemented Hannebery?s meteoric rise to the AFL.

    A slow (by his standards) start to the 2011 season was attributed to his well-publicised battles with stress and anxiety but even an average game from Hannebery is still invaluable to the Swans. He has only justified his Rising Star hype since, averaging nearly 25 disposals per game since Round 13 and he has amassed at least 20 possessions in his last ten games. The incident that typifies Dan Hannebery as a footballer came in Round 20 against Essendon when he threw himself backwards into a marking contest and was crunched in the ribs by Michael Hurley. Longmire called him ?Courageous, bordering on being a maniac? as he picked himself up off the turf and played on where he was almost the Swans? best player in the fourth quarter.

    Nick Smith and Dan Hannebery are contrasting players and personalities ? one a shy and reserved tagger whose scalps often go unnoticed; and one hard midfielder who can never ask enough questions with an already high standing in the game. But it seems that regardless of where these two have started their careers, they will long be critical members of the Swans team of the future and we may yet see them reach another milestone together - as captains of the Sydney Swans.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Jewels's Avatar
      Jewels -
      Wonderful article Alison, thank you for that.Gotta love these two boys.
    1. Triple B's Avatar
      Triple B -
      Excellent read. Nice work...
    1. Big Al's Avatar
      Big Al -
      Great stuff Alison.
    1. Lucky Knickers's Avatar
      Lucky Knickers -
      Thanks Alison. Really enjoyed reading that.
    1. dimelb's Avatar
      dimelb -
      Top article Alison - thanks for a seriously good read.
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