Billie keen to give 2012 the boot

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012 | 14.43

Billie Smedts finished the 2012 season playing 14 games for Geelong. Picture: Peter Ristevski Source: Geelong Advertiser

IN A strange sort of way Billie Smedts just wants 2012 to be over.

After missing the entire 2011 season because of injury, Smedts made his debut in Round 1 this year before experiencing so many things football has to offer.

He dealt with highs: the excitement of playing his first game, the thrill of playing a big part in Geelong's epic win over Hawthorn in Round 19 and the pride of seeing his mates win the VFL grand final.

But also plenty of lows: being dropped, missing a final through injury and, most significantly, intense pressure.

This time last year Smedts was all the rage at Simonds Stadium.

Players and coaches spoke of how he was training the house down, while the media had him pinned as the competition's next big thing.

And Smedts didn't know why.

He was 19 and he hadn't even made his debut.

"I actually took it pretty tough," Smedts said. "I wanted to put pressure on myself to perform, but I thought it was just a lot of extra pressure - I hadn't played a game yet and I already felt like I had big shoes to fill.

"I feel as though there was too much hype, definitely a little bit too much for my liking. All I wanted to do was play footy and I felt like my first game was already going to be big enough and I felt like in the back of my head, 'Oh, I've had this said, so I've got extra pressure on top of me'."

He insists he didn't read his own press.

"But other people told me about what was said and a lot of other people read it," he said.

"I knew it was there and I didn't handle it very well because it sat there in the back of my head. When I did walk out on to the park I was thinking that people were expecting things and probably expecting bigger things than what I was capable of doing.

"That stuff was written so I felt like I had to play for the media sort of, they were pumping me up, so I felt like I had to go out there and have 30 touches straightaway."

He sought, and received, the advice of senior teammates who had been through it all before, which helped.

"They've obviously gone through a lot of media written and said about them, so just to hear about what they'd gone through, either good reports or bad reports, I just spoke to them about how they dealt with that pressure. They were really good to talk to and they did help me out."

Whether he was dealing with it well or not, March came around quickly and Smedts was named to take on Fremantle in Round 1.

"It's a big road trip for us. We got over there and I was pretty nervous. My family flew over and I was excited but at the same time very scared," he said.

"I ran out there, the crowd was very loud. It was a disappointing loss and a tough initiation."

THE utility played seven of the Cats' first 10 games, moving in and out of the side a couple of times for team balance reasons, before the call came.

He was dropped.

"I took it pretty tough. I knew that I was struggling with a bit of form and I had no confidence going into games," he said.

"I remember Chris Scott coming up on my phone and I knew what was coming. I asked him what I needed to do to get back and he said, 'You play your best footy on confidence and so we just want to take you back to the VFL, hopefully you'll play well, get a kick and get some confidence back and we'll play you'.

"I went back to the VFL and worked on a few little areas of my game, got some confidence up and started playing some decent footy. I got my chance in the senior team again and in a different position as well (half-forward). I enjoyed my new role when I got put back in the seniors." 

GOOD times followed. He had a career-best 20 disposals on his return against Port Adelaide in Round 14, 17 against Gold Coast a week later and then, after playing a personal-best six straight senior games, was involved in the Cats' thrilling two-point win over the Hawks, in which Tom Hawkins kicked six goals.

"I handballed it to Tommy for his second-last one," Smedts said.

"It was incredible. It's everyone's dream to win a game after the siren, you're always in the backyard putting pressure on yourself to win the Grand Final after the siren. I've never been a part of something like that.

"For 'Hawk' to kick that goal after the siren, it was a pretty special night for everyone at the Geelong Football Club. It was massive.

"Me and 'Scarlo' were standing on the goal line and the ball got kicked over our heads. I jumped on Scarlo and he pretty much piggy backed me to 50m out where Hawk was and we all pretty much jumped on each other. It was a pretty good feeling."

But as Smedts was finding his feet and the Cats were seemingly on the verge of making an unlikely assault on a fourth flag in six years, there was to be one final twist in his roller-coaster season.

"I broke my finger into about a thousand pieces in the second-last round," he said.

"We originally thought it was just going to be the one week, so I went in to surgery and got plates and screws put in there, but it didn't get right for the next week (Round 23).

"Then I was actually going to come through the VFL the following week when we played Freo in the elimination final. On the Saturday night the boys were playing the Dockers and I was meant to play in the twos the next day in a final out at Casey.

"But as soon as we lost to Freo I got the call from the doc who said, 'You can't qualify for VFL finals now so your season's done'.

"It was really weird. I was sitting at home getting ready to play footy the next morning and then all of a sudden I get the call saying your season's over. I couldn't really get my head around it. One minute I'm sitting on the couch eating pasta and hydrating and then the next minute the season's over." 

AT LEAST it was for him. Most of his mates had played enough reserves games to qualify for the VFL finals and they went on to defeat Port Melbourne in the grand final to win the premiership.

"I was absolutely pumped for them. I wish I could have been a part of it, but the boys were rapt," Smedts said.

"We pushed back our end-of-year celebrations because we're one team, it's not as if we were going to go out and celebrate without them while they're still playing. Every week we were there for their finals and it was a bonus winning the granny, so we celebrated pretty hard." 

AT THE start of this year, Smedts set himself a goal of playing eight games.

"Any game after that was a bonus," he said.

He finished with 14.

Assessing his first proper season as an AFL player, Smedts described it as "up and down".

"I've experienced the highs and the lows even in my short career to date," he said. "It was an up-and-down year, but it's given me a bit of a taste of what it's going to be like along the way."

Smedts said he doesn't want to forget the lessons he learnt in 2012.

"But in a way I want to put (the year) behind me," he said. "I want to learn from what I did wrong and what I did right last year, so I will put it behind me. But I don't want to forget it totally. I want to take everything I can from this year and put it into next year.

"Next year's a different year and we'll see what happens when we get there."

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