IF YOU venture to Redan football training through the winter, you will see a few players running about in Hawthorn colours.
The socks, T-shirts and shorts are usually all sent from former clubmate Isaac Smith, who remains in close contact with the friends he made and the club that has been a major part of his football journey.
Smith will line up tomorrow in his second AFL grand final with the Hawks, vying to complete a unique set of premiership medallions – building on his first with Redan in the Ballarat Football League (2009), then North Ballarat Roosters in the Victorian Football League (2010).
He has been close to tasting the ultimate football glory. Smith played in the Hawks’ preliminary final loss in his debut season 2011 and the Hawks’ losing grand final to Sydney last year.
Smith arrived at Redan Football Club as a mad Carlton fan, talking about his hero Chris Judd all the time.
He moved to Ballarat in 2008 for university from Cootamundra in southern New South Wales in pursuit of playing the game he loved.
Smith joined the Lions that first year via a couple of friends he had made on residence.
Shane Snibson, who was Lions senior coach, that year said Smith just wanted to play socially and fit into his new adopted town.
In the process, he grew up and became a man.
“Isaac had an exceptional athletic capacity but he still had a lot to learn about football,” Snibson said.
“He was a late developer in the game. His attitude was exceptional, he was always so engaged and keen to learn about the game.”
Eammon Gill was reserves coach the year Smith arrived and said it was evident early Smith’s strengths were what are now trademarks to his game – his speed and run-and-carry.
“His skills were always pretty good but he was always very fit,” Gill said.
“He was always out in front, winning our running in the pre-season.”
Smith played five games in the reserves before he joined the Lions senior ranks.
It was not until late 2009 that his game really started to step up and demand attention.
By mid-2010 he was starring.
About this time in the AFL, new franchises Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney were gathering forces and rival club recruiters were starting to broaden their methods for finding players.
The likes of mature, ready-made players in James Podsiadly and Michael Barlow were unearthed from the VFL.
Snibson, then an assistant coach with North Ballarat Roosters, said Smith’s game had improved dramatically and his athletic attributes had the potential to make a similar impact.
He sparked discussions with Smith and both clubs to start the process of Smith transferring his game mid-season.
“Full credit to Isaac for making the brave decision, especially with the prospect of Redan featuring heavily in finals that season,” Snibson said.
Smith played three VFL reserves games before breaking into the seniors where he played through to the Roosters’ premiership.
He was the Hawks’ first pick in the 2010 draft.
His infectious personality and exciting game quickly won over Hawks’ fans, but he never forgets where he came from.
Sometimes, when the Lions are playing out east, Smith can be seen in the outer cheering on his mates.