Livewire GIANT Devon Smith hopes a less intense approach to pre-season training can help him recapture his best form after an inconsistent and frustrating 2015.
The mercurial Greater Western Sydney forward finished equal second with co-captain Callan Ward behind ruckman Shane Mumford in the GWS club champion award in 2014, but couldn't match that output last year.
At times Smith was a match-winner – he kicked four goals, including three in the last term, and had 27 touches to lead his side to a tough win over Gold Coast at Metricon stadium in round 16 - but the difference between his best and worst was significant and at times startling.
In round two, the exciting runner managed just nine touches against Melbourne, yet picked up 33 a week later against the Sydney Swans, while in round eight he was electric with 27 possessions and 11 tackles against Adelaide, but struggled with just 11 disposals the following week against the Western Bulldogs.
Smith averaged almost 22 possessions and kicked 26 goals from 21 games in 2014, but both aspects of his football dropped away last season, despite the GIANTS winning 11 games.
The 22 year-old – part of the club's vital core – told AFL.com.au he was partly to blame for his drop in output last season.
"It was challenging, I had a few niggling injuries and after probably having a breakout year the season before, I wasn't that happy with my year to be honest," Smith said.
"I have pretty high expectations of myself and looking back, I probably should have managed my niggles better than I did and had a week off here and there.
"I copped a little more attention I guess but it's a really tough competition."
A nagging knee problem forced Smith to miss games in rounds 18 and 21, but by that time the injury was having a negative impact on his game.
Known for his blistering speed and ball carrying ability, the gifted Smith was unable to produce the run his team required, and he said it was a mistake he's learned from.
"I had a good break (at the end of the season) and went overseas for month and really just got away from footy, and got my knee right," Smith said.
"I've gone in (to this pre-season) with a more relaxed approach, in previous years I've gone in doing too much so I've had a bit of an overload issue.
"This pre-season has been more about managing my workload and getting me primed for round one."
Smith expressed his desire to see more midfield time in 2016, and said the addition of three-time Geelong premiership forward Steve Johnson would help his cause.
With the likes of Ward, Ryan Griffen, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully and Lachie Whitfield part of their on-ball division, the GIANTS possess some outstanding runners, and it’s a group Smith is desperate to be part of on a more regular basis.
"In this day and age you've got to be really flexible, if you look at the best teams like Hawthorn and West Coast they're really flexible," he said.
"Growing up I always played midfield/forward and at the moment it's probably more forward/midfield, but with our talent in the midfield it's hard to get in there and I'm happy to get in for a go whenever I can.
"Hopefully I'll spend more time in there this year and play some different roles as well, maybe on the wing and just change it up a bit."
12:40pm Sep 29, 2016
1:20pm Sep 28, 2016
11:09am Sep 28, 2016
12:48pm Sep 27, 2016