Isaac Smith shows off his Norm Smith and premiership medal. Picture: AFL Photos

ISAAC Smith had already cemented his legacy as a triple-premiership player with Hawthorn, but the Geelong wingman has carved out a new place for himself in the game's history as a Norm Smith medallist. 

The tireless veteran, whose move to Geelong as a free agent came late in his career as a 31-year-old, produced a special Grand Final performance on Saturday to defy both his age and history. 

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At 33, he is the oldest player to win the award for best on ground, edging 1980 winner Kevin Bartlett and 1995 winner Greg Williams, who were 32 and 31 respectively. 

There was no sign of Smith's age as he roamed the MCG wings on Saturday and then pushed inside to do some of his best work in tight confines, bursting through traffic, breaking tackles, and kicking goals under pressure. 


He was among the chief architects of the early onslaught that set up Geelong's 10th flag, and a driving force through the 'premiership quarter' with 10 disposals, five inside 50s and a brilliant goal from 50m.  

A powerful runner, he kept motoring late in quarters and late in the game, and by the final siren he had a game-high 32 disposals, 11 inside 50s and a massive 771 metres gained, to go with 12 marks, five clearances and three goals. 

The Cootamundra product received his medal from Collingwood champion and 2002 winner Nathan Buckley, polling 14 votes to win from superstar teammate Patrick Dangerfield (10 votes) and small forward Tyson Stengle (four). 

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He paid tribute on stage to his Pop, Kevin Smith, who Isaac had rushed to see for 24 hours last week before he died this week aged 93, adding an emotional element to Saturday's celebrations. 

"I was very close to [him] and he had a lot to do with the person I am today," Smith said after the game. 

"I made a mad dash to Albury and spent 24 hours with him and will be forever grateful that he was still mentally there, and we had a great 24 hours together. 

"Although it was very upsetting, it's been a beautiful time for our family." 


Smith's father, Wayne, said Isaac had the same passion and humble personality as his Pop, who was a professional road and track cyclist and a "very hard trainer" – another trait the pair share. 

Wayne said his son had always been a good athlete and knew where to run on a football field from a young age. His motto for a long time had been to make other players look better than him. 

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"He says if you do that, the whole team benefits," Wayne said.  

"He's been the ultimate team player and he's sacrificed so much for other players, because he wants them to look good and play well and use their skills." 

It's something Smith was successful at again on Saturday, with a massive 14 score involvements, but he did it to such an extent that it became impossible for the Norm Smith Medal panel to look past the fleet-footed veteran. 

The acknowledgement felt awkward for Smith, whose 258-game career has included one third-place finish in a best and fairest (2018) and no All-Australian blazers, despite being recognised as one of the game's best wingmen.   

"It certainly doesn't sit comfortably with me. I feel a little bit silly and a little bit awkward, because these things don't happen to me," Smith said.  

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"We've got a star-studded side and blokes who have huge lists of personal accolades. 

"But I was fortunate enough today to win it and I'm sure I'll sit back in a few years' time with a nice bottle of Grange or something and think about it." 

Isaac Smith with his family after the 2022 Toyota Grand Final between Geelong and Sydney at the MCG on September 24, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Part of the powerful Hawthorn team that beat Geelong in big finals in 2013 and 2014, Smith has endeared himself to his new fans and will now be remembered with great fondness when his career eventually ends. 

There was a sense of calm on the final siren from the left-footer, who now has four premiership medals from five Grand Final appearances, but he was mobbed by teammates when announced as the Norm Smith medallist.  

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"The reason I play football is to get great relationships and great friends and no one can take this away from this group, and we'll now be connected for life. To me, that's the best thing to come out of it," Smith said.  

"I'm not kidding myself, I don't have long left, so to do it in the latter stages of my career is special."


Smith reflected on his move to the Cats as a free agent and said the motivation had been to both win another premiership but also learn from a new club and a highly respected and successful coach.  

Scott said he was grateful that Smith believed in what the Cats were trying and chose to join the club that had been a great rival to his Hawks, instead of the equally keen Melbourne. 

"I would completely understand if he didn't buy what we were selling a couple of years ago," Scott said. 

"It was easy to more listen to the people on the outside who thought our time was over, so there was some trust and faith in the sports of things we said we could deliver for him. I will always be appreciative of that."

2022 Norm Smith Medal voting

14 – Isaac Smith (Geelong)
10 – Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)
4 – Tyson Stengle (Geelong)
1 – Sam De Koning (Geelong)
1 – Mark Blicavs (Geelong)

Judges' voting

Andrew McLeod (Chair) – I Smith 3, P Dangerfield 2, M Blicavs 1
Jonathan Brown – P Dangerfield 3, I Smith 2, T Stengle 1
Michael Gleeson – I Smith 3, P Dangerfield 2, S De Koning 1
Abbey Holmes – I Smith 3, P Dangerfield 2, T Stengle 1
David Mundy – I Smith 3, T Stengle 2, P Dangerfield 1