ZAC Smith is still only 21 years of age but has the sporting world at his feet and yet, when home, enjoys nothing more than kicking a footy around the park with a bunch of mates.
The young Gold Coast Suns ruckman returned to Rockhampton at the weekend and took the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, even taking time out to kick the ball around on his former home playing surface at Stenlake Park.
Smith is no longer the awkward teenager who left the Bulls to enter a different world of the professional footballer.
The player that returned to his roots is a young man who possesses strength to back up his height and confidence to support his enthusiasm.
While still one of the boys, the young player is also aware of what he has and can achieve in the years to come and is prepared to do everything to reach those goals.
"It has been an amazing first year," Smith admitted.
While the finals are still in full flow the focus for Smith is 2012.
"I'm looking forward to the pre-season," he said.
Smith has set his sights on being a bigger, stronger and faster unit in the coming season now he is aware of what he requires at the top level of the sport.
Not that Smith and his team mates have a lot of time to wait with the Suns back in training on October 25.
"It is a bit earlier than in the last couple of years," he said, "but this time we are going to a two week camp at Arizona."
This is the sort of preparation that Collingwood has favoured in the past and has worked well at that club.
A highlight for the season came in round seven when the Suns beat the Brisbane Lions and Smith was named the NAB AFL Rising Star for the round.
For Smith's effort the Glenmore Bulls received some equipment, from NAB, to help with the development of more junior players. However on a personal level more accolades were to come.
"I went to a function last Tuesday and they showed how the voting for the season went," he said.
While not a winner, the name of Zac Smith was sitting at number three.
"I was stoked," he said, "I hadn't even thought about being nominated."
One disappointment for the rookie AFL team was ending the season on the bottom of the ladder after a narrow loss to Hawthorn in the final game.
"It was alright to finish on a good note," he said, "one little lapse for about 10 minutes and they kicked about six goals.
"It is all about consistency but we are still a very young team."
However, he said the Suns earned the best draft pick due to their last placing and that was something he would preferred not to accept, taking the win over Hawthorn instead.
Smith said he doesn't worry about things like the annual player draft as the club don't talk recruitment with the players.
The ruckman admitted all the Suns young players were tired at the end of their first AFL season as their commitments to the club go far beyond training and playing but also involve promotion of the sport, visiting hospitals and public speaking for which they were given some training by the club.
"I am definitely a lot better than when I first started," he said.
"You get better at public speaking as you go on."
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