Mulwala’s man mountain masterstroke

Mulwala’s dominant ruckman Jamie Smith in action against Echuca last Saturday. Photo by Les_Garbutt

A masterstroke to lure a number one ruckman to Mulwala has helped the Lions to an impeccable start to season 2022.

Soon after being appointed last September, one of three senior coaches for the Lions, Rohan Davies targeted former teammate at Hurstbridge, Jamie Smith, to play for Mulwala.

“It was my first call,” Davies told the Yarrawonga Chronicle at the time.

Smith has been dominant this season and Mulwala is undefeated after five games.

“I've known Rohan our off-field coach for sometime and when he reached out to me last year it was just a breath of fresh air that I felt I needed,” Smith said.

“I had a knee injury that only allowed me to play three games last season along with being in lockdown for the best part of two years, my feeling was that some weekends away would be great for me and the family.

“I know Mulwala has been a strong side for a while and the thought of coming up to try and help the side reach the ultimate success is what got me over the line.”

Smith, who turns 31-years-of-age late May, is enjoying the environment at Lonsdale Recreation Reserve, saying all the supporters and volunteers have been incredibly welcoming to he and his family.

He’s become well known to Sophie and Nick at the Paradise Palms who he says, provide excellent hospitality when the Smiths stay at weekends.

“The town itself is magnificent, it's a nice change of pace on the weekends as compared to living in Melbourne,” Smith said.

“It's great being in walking distance of the lake, pubs, footy netball club and bakery for a feed in the mornings after the game!”

In the beginning, the mobile 6’9” ruckman wasn't sure how he would cope with the travelling but having his dad or wife along to share the driving has made it much easier and together, have worked out the best coffee stop-overs on the way!

Smith rates Mulwala’s senior football team as “really strong all over the park”.

“I think we've got a good mix of youth and experience and a really strong reserves side which keeps everyone on their toes for positions in the side,” Smith said.

“I've walked into a pretty elite midfield with guys like Matt Gorman, Jackson Gash, Bodhi Butts and Brad Wilson. It certainly makes my job easier when you've got these guys around you in the contest. The best part is just seeing how hungry everyone at the club is for success.”

After playing junior footy to age 15, Smith didn't return to the game until about 21, preferring to play cricket.

“It wasn't until I grew into my body at around 21 before I thought I'd give footy another crack,” he explained. “I went across and played at Norwood in the Eastern Footy League as my employer at the time was their footy manager.”

For the last four years Smith played with Hurstbridge as vice-captain in the NFNL Div1; previously had two years at Eltham and three years at Norwood in the Eastern Football League. He also spent two years with Collingwood on their VFL Development list.

Ever since playing senior footy, he has always been in the ruck, occasionally get down forward “if I'm lucky”.

Plenty of sport has been played in the Smith family. Jamie’s dad Carey Smith represented Victoria in cricket as an opening swing bowler who could bat and his Pop, Ray Murnane played six games for Collingwood and is a legend at the Preston Bullants Football Club.

Jamie and wife Chloe have one son Archer who will be two-years-of-age in August and are expecting their second child in September.

A landscape project manager, Jamie said keeping fit during the season/preseason isn't always easy but at the same time he loves it.

“I think I learned a lot about hard work, fitness and preparation with my time spent at Collingwood under Dale Tapping,” Smith said.

“I loved my time there and would often pinch myself at how lucky I was to be at the club using their facilities and being in an elite environment.

“Looking back I think my first real senior coach in Denis Knight at Norwood taught me a lot about how to prepare myself and what was expected of the ruckmen given I was pretty raw back in my early 20s.

“These days I'm training out at Vic Park in Collingwood with team-mate Beau Clarke along with a group of other Melbourne based guys playing country footy.”

Asked about trying for the AFL, “not really” was Jamie’s response. “Whilst at Collingwood they had a pretty stacked ruck department with Grundy, Witts and Cox; it probably wasn't until my mid-twenties before I started playing some good consistent footy at local level.

“They always used to say to me big blokes take time which I hated haha.”

Mulwala football manager Dale Ferguson said the club is thrilled having Jamie. “Jamie’s inclusion as a player and person, and having his family here, is fantastic,” he said.