Former Adelaide forward Riley Knight has penned an exclusive piece for aflplayers.com.au on dashing Crows defender Brodie Smith, who will line up for his 200th game on Sunday afternoon against West Coast. A trailblazing half-back flanker, Smith was selected as an All-Australian in 2014 and overcame a ruptured ACL in 2017 to help guide Adelaide’s rebuild and return to his best football.
Words from Riley Knight
When I started playing junior footy at the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles, Brodie was playing under 18s and League football in the SANFL. I remember watching him as a junior, knowing and hearing the hype around him heading into his draft year.
Three years later, I was fortunate enough to be drafted and arrived at the Adelaide Football Club.
It wasn’t love at first sight, unfortunately.
Brodie was the young gun that everyone loved. Whether it was on the field or off, ‘Smithers’ was king. It wasn’t until I found myself playing alongside him that we became good mates.
The more you play AFL, the closer you become to your teammates, and as such, a friendship was born.
During that year, many friendships were created.
We formed a tight knit group which consisted of Brodie, Rory Laird, Luke Brown, Kyle Hartigan, Mitch McGovern and Charlie Cameron.
It was one of the best years of my life. We loved playing together and the ride that our club went on over the next two years was one I’ll never forget.
When Smithers plays his football, he plays with such a love and passion for the game. As a youngster, this is what he taught me: ‘Never overcomplicate it, because in the end, you’re playing a game you love with your mates and the sun will shine the next morning regardless of the result.’
Brodie was always a player everyone loved and enjoyed playing with. One of his great qualities is his connection with both age brackets within the football club. Younger guys admire him, and the senior guys respect him.
Smithers was never a player that strived for a title, however over the years with his constant care, love and attention to detail, he has turned into of the best leaders within the Adelaide Football Club.
Over the years, the game has changed dramatically. But Smithers’ dash and dare off the half-back flank has never changed.
Brodie was an All-Australian in 2014, which he will tell you if you didn’t know, or perhaps he’ll bring the jacket out on the odd occasion.
He was one of the boldest and most daring defenders in the league during his All Australian year, and took a position — which wasn’t necessarily viewed as the most important — but turned it into one of the most valuable on the field.
He was one of the first real attacking defenders who used to always tuck the ball under his arm. His penetrating, bullet-like kicking style is one of the best in the competition.
I’ll put it up there and say he’s in the top five per cent of most skilled footballers going around at the moment.
He was a massive reason as to why we were so successful in those years under coaches Phil Walsh and Don Pyke. We played a slingshot brand of football, and Brodie was the one starting it all from opposition turnovers.
To see Smithers in front of big crowds, tucking the ball under his arm, taking bounces and taking the opposition on, it was definitely something to sit back and admire.
2017 was a really good year — we made it to the Grand Final, and Brodie was a big part of that.
But for someone who has grown up as a kid, living and breathing the Crows his whole life as a South Australian boy, to miss out on that Grand Final after rupturing his ACL in the qualifying final win over the Giants, I don’t think people understand how hard that was on Brodie.
At the time, a lot of people thought we were going to experience a long run of sustained success, and everyone assumed, ‘He’ll get his turn next year, or he’ll get his turn the year after’, but with how quickly things changed, unfortunately he had to sit there on the sidelines, and it was extremely hard for him to watch on.
If you didn’t know Brodie closely, you wouldn’t know that at all. He was still so positive around the group; he was always encouraging.
Even the year after the Grand Final, he gave up a huge amount of his time guiding the next generation through with his voluntary coaching role with the South Australia under 18s, as well as mentoring our emerging backline brigade.
All these young guys that have had Brodie as a mentor coming through are now starting to reap the rewards from having his experience next to them.
Rehab is a difficult part of any sport, and at times you can be disconnected from the main group. You don’t really see them for four or five weeks at a time, but Brodie made sure he was always doing his work before everyone else started so that he could be present around the group and still have an influence.
He is so meticulous in what he does. Whether it’s his training, his diet, or his rehab with his ACL, he’s always been dedicated.
That’s what makes him one of the best defenders in the league.
Brodie is the epitome of what every club wishes their draft picks grow into. A talented, loyal, team-first player who is an ultimate club man.
He always puts the club first. This year, for example, he wanted to play in the midfield, but the club needed a senior defender to support the young kids.
Brodie sacrificed his own game for the development of the club. It’s the reason why — at just 29 years of age — he is a Life Member of the Adelaide Football Club and viewed as one of the most team-first players within the club.
I’m really thankful that I got the opportunity to play with Smithers and I’m even more thankful that our relationship has grown to a point where it extends beyond the football field.
I can’t wait to see him enjoy his football in his 200th game, and hopefully he’s got another 100-plus by the time his career finishes.