Geelong’s Isaac Smith has emerged from the passing of his beloved grandfather and getting stuck in a lift pre-game to become the oldest winner of the AFL’s coveted Norm Smith medal.
The 33-year-old Smith claimed the gong for best-afield in the Cats’ 81-point grand final hammering of Sydney on Saturday.
The previous oldest medallist was Richmond’s Kevin Bartlett, who was 32 when best on ground in the Tigers’ 1980 premiership.
Smith collected 32 disposals, booted three goals and produced a batch of eye-catching statistics: 14 score involvements, 11 inside-50s, five clearances, a dozen marks and a game-high 771 metres gained.
The build-up to his fourth flag – to go with three won at Hawthorn – included the death of his grandfather, who Smith spent time with in Albury in NSW after last week’s preliminary final, on Wednesday night.
“I made a mad dash to Albury and spent 24 hours with him,” he said.
“And I will be forever grateful that he was still mentally there and we had a great 24 hours together, although it was very upsetting.”
On grand final morning, Smith became stuck in a lift at the team hotel.
“The only time I got nerves this year was I got stuck in the lift for 15 minutes at the hotel this morning,” he said.
“I thought, ‘Oh, s**t, I might not make it’. The technician said he was an hour away.
“Fortunately the doors opened.”
Smith is the fifth Geelong player to win the medal, following Gary Ablett Sr (1989), Steve Johnson (2007), Paul Chapman (2009) and Jimmy Bartel (2011).
“It certainly doesn’t fit comfortably with me. I feel a little bit silly and a bit awkward because these things don’t happen to me,” he said.
“We have got a star-studded side and blokes that have huge lists of personal accolades.
“But I was fortunate enough today to win it and I am sure I will sit back in a few years’ time with a nice bottle of Grange or something and think about it.”
Smith moved to the Cats as a free agent, at the behest of coach Chris Scott, after playing 210 games for the Hawks between 2011 and 2020.
“I owe Isaac to an extent because I would completely understand if he didn’t buy what we were selling a couple of years ago,” Scott said.
“It was easy to listen more to the people on the outside who thought that our time was over.”