'I trust myself to deliver': Ex-basketballer shapes as early draft pick

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FOR A TIME, it seemed the closest Tyanna Smith would get to playing top-level football was running through the banner with West Coast as a kid.

But fast-forward seven or eight years, and the highly rated Dandenong Stingrays midfielder (whose first name is pronounced "tee-arna") is poised to join the AFLW ranks through October 6's NAB AFLW Draft, with recruiters tipping a very early selection is on the cards.

The 17-year-old's half-brother Ashley played 45 games for the Eagles between 2010 and 2014.

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"Him and my other brother lived with us on weekends, so Dad would take them to footy and Mum and I would always go along," Smith told womens.afl.

"Everything he did through Haileybury (school) football, the Vic championships, we went to Queensland a few times with him. I was definitely always at his games.

"We went over there a couple of times to watch him play. West Coast were a really good club, I got to run out with them on the field and through the banner, which was really cool.

"At that time, I thought I might just have to aim to be the first female umpire, but luckily football came along."

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Having played Auskick and under 9s footy at Beaconsfield (in Melbourne's outer south-east), before making her way through the junior representative ranks in basketball, Smith returned to footy around the same time the AFLW competition started in 2017. 

Tyanna Smith in action for the Dandenong Stingrays. Picture: Getty Images via AFL Photos

"Ever since I was a really little kid, football was a massive part of my life, and I loved it when that opportunity opened up and AFLW began. That's what I wanted to do, and was really why I switched back to footy, to reach my dream of playing in the AFLW," she said.

"I love how footy is so competitive and it's such a different game to anything else in the world. My favourite thing to do is burst out of a pack, running with speed.

"I also love the moments when it's close, it's really exciting. You just have to take the moment, and I want to have the ball in my hands, and I trust myself to deliver." 

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Her pace, clean hands in congestion and good decision-making set Smith apart during last year's NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships, where she was one of just four bottom-age players to be named All Australian. 

A year 12 student at St Francis Xavier College in Beaconsfield, she has been working on keeping her momentum going through a challenging football-free year, with father Michael a key part of training. 

Smith was named in the Stingrays' best in all three rounds of the NAB League Girls before the season was axed due to COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

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"My dad's been really good at helping me. He'll take me to the oval multiple times a week, and he's actually not too bad himself," she said with a laugh.

"I've taken the pre-season running program we did with Stingrays and have started doing a bit of that. I'm also working through a bit of a strength and conditioning program with Mitch Greaves, who does some work with Carlton."

Considering her basketball background, it's no surprise who Smith draws inspiration from.

"At the moment, in the AFLW, (Richmond's) Monique Conti is someone I've tried to model my game after. And in the men's, I've always loved Scott Pendlebury. I'm a massive Collingwood fan, so I love him as well." 

Stay tuned to womens.afl and the AFLW Official App for comprehensive coverage of the 2020 NAB AFLW Draft