Essendon and GWS completed just the second trade of the 2017 trade period yesterday. Devon Smith joined the Bombers and a number of picks were swapped included Essendon’s coveted first-round pick, 11.
Smith was drafted as a midfielder by the Giants but found it hard to maintain a position in the midfield in a star-studded group consisting of Dylan Shiel, Callan Ward, Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully plus ex-Giants Adam Treloar and Taylor Adams. With young guns, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto primed to join the cavalcade of midfield-capable players in the Giants best 22, Smith developed his forward craft and became a key part of a potent GWS attack.
Struggling with persistent knee issues over the last two years, Smith missed five games during the seasons as a result and a flare-up in Round 23 saw him miss the Giants’ first two finals games. Despite being declared fit for GWS’ Preliminary Final match against Richmond, he was left out of the side, a definite factor in his decision to leave the club.
Where Smith’s name falls on the team sheet at Essendon is probably similar to that at GWS, half forward, however, he’ll spend significantly more time in the midfield at the Bombers. When forward he’ll join – and be able to feed from – pressure kings, Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. They’re a high scoring team when playing their best football and Smith’s SuperCoach scores will reflect that. We’re yet to see what he can do in the midfield, but alongside Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell, David Zaharakis and Dyson Heppell he’ll certainly be in good company, more possessions are on the horizon.
For his Essendon teammates, he’ll slot in seamlessly, the retirement of Jobe Watson opens up a position for him and I can’t see him taking too many SuperCoach points of his fellow midfielders. His inclusion may make selection difficult for exciting SuperCoach rookie prospect, Josh Begley who kicked five goals from his three games in 2017.
Smith’s departure from GWS – along with the retirement of Steve Johnson – leaves a couple of holes in their forward line and they don’t have a clear replacement. It will be interesting to see how the Giants shuffle the magnets to put together an aggressive forward six. Tim Taranto probably spends more time in the forward half and a greater responsibility will fall on the shoulder of veteran Brett Deledio.
Devon Smith’s value clearly rises out of this trade. He finished the season with a SuperCoach average of just under 80 which will see him start the 2018 season as a forward, most likely priced at the low end $400k. With a big opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Bombers midfield, he will certainly lift his possession tally over 20 disposals per game and will likely continue to contribute on the scoreboard. He looms as a genuine mid-priced option in the forward line.