Isaac Smith – as evidenced by his late margin-defining goal against Brisbane in Round 2 – has had a dream start in Geelong’s famous hoops.
Now he has to face down the scowls of his ex-Hawthorn teammates in the traditional Easter Monday clash at the MCG.
Some of those old teammates have vowed to target Smith – a player who helped the Hawks to three AFL premierships and collected two club Best and Fairest honours in his 210 games over ten years at Hawthorn – should he cross their paths.
In vows which resurrect memories of the opening moments of the 1989 Grand Final, a match which has become as infamous as it is famous in VFL/AFL lore, it could be said that Smith’s free agent move down the Princes Highway in the offseason has rubbed his old teammates the wrong way.
That’s a bit of an understatement.
Closer to the truth, Hawthorn’s rank and file now have attitudes that are saltier than the pretzels available in the city of Geelong’s seaside pub scene.
Most vocal among the Hawks has been forward Luke Breust, who has laid bare his teammates’ intentions for dealing with livewire Smith.
“Don’t you worry, there will certainly be a few boys lining up to get him,” Breust has said ahead of a traditional rivals’ match that generally needs very little to add to the build-up.
“It can be all smiles and fun and games, but once you cross that line it’s ‘game on’ again. If he’s in the road, then I’m sure the boys will be pretty happy to clean him up,” Breust has promised.
Right behind Breust is teammate Liam Shields.
“I’m already telling him that I’m looking forward to tagging him. And he’s coming back at me saying that I won’t be able to keep up,” boasted Shields.
However, despite that one bit of trash talk, Smith is doing his best to remain above the fray.
“I’m not too worried about that [outside] stuff – I just want to get the ball,” Smith said in preparations for what will be his first match against the Hawks.
“You like to see us being competitive and being passionate about our play, we’re all competitive beasts and it’s going to be a competitive game of football.
“There’s a lot of white line fever between all of us, and I look forward to it,” Smith adds.
Meanwhile, his own teammates feel blessed to have him playing in the blue-and-white hoops instead of the brown-and-gold stripes – although there were games in this rivalry where Smith’s profligate misses at goal sent Geelong fans home happy, such as in the 2016 qualifying final and again in the 2017 home-and-away season.
“He holds the room in every sort of conversation that’s going on, it’s like he’s been with us for the last ten years,” said Patrick Dangerfield, who will observe from afar while serving the second match of a three-week stint under suspension.
“He’s certainly not going to be over-awed with any situation, and certainly not this one coming up,” Dangerfield added.
And given the number and magnitude of dramatic moments this Geelong-Hawthorn rivalry has had over the years – especially since it became the exclusive fixture on Easter Monday starting in the 2010 season – Smith’s new teammates believe that he can play a starring role in this year’s match.
“I’ve got a feeling that the footy gods will make him have some sort of impact in this game!” proclaimed Tom Hawkins.
Nonetheless, Smith views this particular match with a level head.
“Maybe I’ll get some applause, maybe I’ll get some boos. And Hawthorn will be out to win, so this is going to be a pretty heated contest,” he said.
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