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A ruckman on top of their game is a beautiful sight

Zac Smith collected a team-high 21 possessions and tallied 48 hit-outs to be named best afield. - Zac Smith,Geelong Cats
Zac Smith collected a team-high 21 possessions and tallied 48 hit-outs to be named best afield.

Often the first player to touch the ball and with the ability to be the most impactful player on the ground, a ruckman on top of their game is a beautiful sight.

In Sunday’s VFL win, ruckman Zac Smith was in full flight.

Finally given the chance to showcase his abilities as the Cats’ sole ruck option, Smith controlled the game from the opening bounce.

With Rhys Stanley and Esava Ratugolea out of action, ruck duo Darcy Fort and Ryan Abbott made their way into the AFL team.

While disappointed not to be playing AFL, the promotion of his VFL teammates gave Smith an opportunity to play a full game in his true position.

“I’m really happy that (Fort and Abbott) got to play up on the weekend but it allows me to control the game in the ruck and get more game time in there,” Smith said.

“Continuity in there is pretty key for myself, the more I can play in a position where I can play to my strengths, which is in the ruck for me, the better.”

Smith was helped by young rucks Blake Schlensog and Nathan Kreuger, but the onus was on him to dominate around the ground, and he answered the call.

In his best game for the year, Smith tallied 48 hitouts and was named best afield in the Cats’ seven-point win.

It wasn’t just his aerial dominance, as Smith collected a team-high 21 possessions, 15 of which were contested, along with six clearances, impressing VFL coach Shane O’Bree.

“(Smith’s) follow up work around the ground and presence was really impressive. We have just got to keep him in that mindset that it’s what he’s good at and get him to keep doing it,” O’Bree said.

The match stands out as Smith’s best of the season, but the former Sun believes he was due for a great game after a solid few weeks.

“I’m really happy, I feel like I have been building some continuity over the past few weeks and have been able to work on a few things that get my game going,” he said.

“I think you’ve always got to put your best foot forward and I tried to do that today and play to my strengths in giving the boys first use and following up myself.”

Smith has 112 AFL games to his name, but the 29-year-old is under no illusion that he will have to continue this form if he is to add to that tally this year.

With Stanley in career best form, Abbott showing he is a more than capable AFL ruckman and Fort jumping out of the blocks, there is more competition for spots than Smith has ever had to deal with.

But that competition only motivates Smith to work harder for that senior recall.

“The competition makes you a bit hungrier, you want to do your best, put your best foot forward and put the AFL guys under pressure because they have been doing that to you,” Smith said.

“If you do your job on the weekend it will put pressure on them, so I’ve just got to keep building and enjoying my footy.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs