• Jayden J Bartlett

Kristen Smith - a Debut to Remember

The previous few years have not been the best, with disruptions and cancellations affecting all walks of life, let alone the world of football. But 2021 saw things start to ease and, after barely getting on the ground in 2020, players began to retake to the field.

For Kristen Smith, it was a long time coming. Having played in the Kew Rovers’ premiership sides of 2018 and 2019, the young Victorian forward was determined to help her team find success once again.

However, a cruel twist of fate saw Kristen break her ankle at the beginning of the year, further ruling her out of the game for longer.

“It was super upsetting,” Kristen said when asked how the incident affected her. “Especially since the season had pretty much just started and Covid had died down a little so we could play.”

Being forced to watch from the sidelines is difficult. But being forced to watch from the sidelines after having no footy for nearly a year is extremely rough.

Yet the extra time off, as bitter as it was, allowed Kristen to grow even more determined to make an impact and, instead of dwelling on the unfortunate injury, she chose to use that time on the injury bench to prepare for her return.

And, if we were to imagine that Kristen was to reflect on her footballing journey up to that fateful choice in 2021, she would have felt a degree of pride.

'Charger in Action' - image kindly supplied by Kristen.

This sense of pride would have come because, since first strapping on the footy boots, Kristen has developed into a terrific goal sneak. However, being as humble as she is upbeat, the young Victorian is quick to reject any idea that her journey so far has been great.

But personal opinions aside, she started her footy life in 2016 when she joined the Kew Comets, before then moving to the Kew Rovers in 2017 where she went on to play in the aforementioned premiership teams of 2018 and 2019.

As well as local footy, she had an impact in school football as she captained her side and also claimed her school’s Best and Fairest.

However, the most amazing aspect of her journey so far has been that, since her first year of footy in 2016, she has finished runner-up to her local league’s Best and Fairest in every season that she has played.

So, after having had premiership glory and finishing runner-up Best and Fairest on multiple occasions, Kristen’s long-awaited return to football was slightly delayed due to this injury but, after recovering, she put on her best display yet.

Missing roughly half the season, Kristen’s 2021 performance was outstanding, typified by a 10-goal haul in a single match, a personal best for the young forward.

And Kew also made the Grand Final but unfortunately, Covid resurfaced to prevent them from playing the decider.

Being far from done, Kristen also finally went a step further and claimed the League Best and Fairest – completing the perfect return to footy.

“It felt so good,” she said when asked about her amazing comeback.

This standout performance brought more opportunities for Kristen, as it caught the attention of the Oakleigh Chargers who picked her up for their 2022 NAB League Girls season.

“It’s been so much fun,” she said when asked about her time at Oakleigh. “So much better than I was expecting.”

“The team spirit is so different to what I’ve ever experienced before.”

'Smiles on Debut' - image kindly supplied by Kristen.

Bouncing back after breaking her ankle to then be crowned as the league’s Best and Fairest and Leading Goal Kicker while also earning a spot on the Oakleigh Chargers squad – the next step for Kristen was to make her NAB League Girls’ debut.

And, proving that hard work pays off, she didn’t have to wait long as Kristen earned a Round One debut to kick off the 2022 season.

“I was so nervous beforehand, she said when questioned about her debut match. “But everyone in the team was so nice to me and always made sure I knew what I was doing.”

“After I got my first touch I felt like I was into the game and tried to get as much of the ball as possible.”

Probably not even in her wildest dreams could Kristen have predicted just how well she would play on debut. In total, she finished with 19 touches and a 4 goal-haul, which included 2 crucial goals in the final term to set up a comfortable win for her side.

“After the game, I felt amazing. Everyone, even people I didn’t know were coming up to me and congratulating me. Best feeling ever.”

She still wears an ankle brace for extra support and continues to pray “that nothing else happens to it throughout this year” but it seems for now that this gun forward has recovered and settled into her new side.

In fact, since her debut game, her goal tally has risen to 8, while she has averaged 9 touches and 3 marks a match throughout the past 5 weeks. Now, she is just “really aiming to have double-digit disposals each game”.

Admittedly she isn’t too sure on where she wants to have her footy take her but as her history suggests, whatever she decides to do in footy her passion and dedication will help see her each it.

And in the meantime, thanks to her crafty goal sense and great ability to kick while on the run, we can just continue to enjoy watching Kristen Smith up forward, doing what she does best.

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Article #221

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