Former Melbourne high-flyer Shaun Smith says his son Joel deserves a place in the Demons’ grand final team but accepts it will be up to the Dees’ match committee to determine whether the backman is recalled for the date with the Western Bulldogs on Saturday week.
Beset by injuries for much of his career, Joel Smith worked his way back into the Melbourne line-up late in the season, playing three straight games including the qualifying final win over the Brisbane Lions.
Joel Smith (left) missed the preliminary final.Credit:AFL Photos
But Smith, 25, missed the preliminary final win over Geelong following a hamstring complaint at training last week.
He was replaced in the side by veteran Michael Hibberd, who blanketed Cats forward Gary Rohan in the Dees’ 83-point victory at Optus Stadium.
Shaun Smith said his son was likely to be fit again for the grand final, but it remained to be seen whether he would be recalled given how well the Dees played.
Tall backman Steven May insists he will be fit to face the Dogs despite his own hamstring scare in the preliminary final.
The 191-centimetre Smith would provide further aerial cover against a Dogs line-up featuring Aaron Naughton, Josh Schache and Tim English.
“He should be fit by next week. That extra week’s helped him. I guess it’s pretty similar to what May had, a bit of a twinge in the hammy. Whether he’s still in the hunt I don’t know, that’s up to ‘Goody’ [coach Simon Goodwin] I suppose. He should be ready to go,” Shaun Smith said.
“Fingers crossed. It was heartbreaking for the kid. He worked so hard to get back into the team and then something at training happened. He’s crossed a black cat or something.
“He’s pretty upbeat about it. He has to be and just work hard for a couple of weeks [to] be ready to go.”
Shaun Smith.Credit:The Age
Recruited to the Demons from a basketball background as a category B rookie, Smith has played just 21 AFL matches since his debut in 2017. His father noted that the Dees batted deep.
“I think every player who plays in a grand final deserves it. The good thing about Melbourne is there’s probably five players who would walk into the team right now,” said Smith snr, who played 62 games for the Demons in the late 1990s after 47 matches for North Melbourne, where his daughter Amy now plays.
“People will say he’s only played a handful of games but they don’t see the hard work he’s done to get back and the persistence. So I think he deserves to be in the team.“
Rebounding defender Jayden Hunt is also poised to be a hard-luck story having hurt his ankle late in the season after being a mainstay for much of the year. Hunt is back to full fitness but like Smith could be a victim of the Dees’ stability and strong form.
Veterans Nathan Jones, Neville Jetta and Jake Melksham are among the others on the outer. Jones returned from Western Australia for the birth of his twins over the weekend.
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