Rising Nelson Bay AFL junior Taylor Smith in fine fettle for Under 18 Sydney Swans Academy

Nelson Bay Marlins AFL midfielder Taylor Smith is training strongly with the Under 18 Sydney Swans Academy Benchmark Program.

INTENSIVE pre-season training is no deterrent for Nelson Bay AFL discovery Taylor Smith.

The rising midfield dynamo has undergone gruelling fitness and skills sessions in the lead up to Christmas with the Under 18 Sydney Swans Academy Benchmark Program – and is relishing the task.

She is one of a hundred top prospects trialling for spots in the 2024 Swans Academy Female train on squad under the tutelage of legendary forward Nick Davis.

If successful the Nelson Bay Marlins junior will saddle up for a third consecutive season under Davis, the Swans Under 18 Female Academy Head Coach and AFLW senior assistant under Scott Gowans.

Taylor has drawn plenty of inspiration from the Swans’ history-making AFLW team that captured the imagination of the sporting public during the 2023 campaign.

After going winless in their debut season last year, the Sydney club charged into the big end-of-season finals series – toppling Gold Coast by 9.4 (58) to 6.5 (41) before bowing out of title contention after their semi final loss to minor premiers Adelaide last weekend.

“I look up to leaders like Chloe Molloy and Lucy McEvoy at the Swans and watching them perform in the finals is so uplifting,” an exuberant Taylor told News Of The Area.

“The entire club including the senior men and women squads encourage the Academy players to do their best,” the Tomaree High School student revealed.

“Occasionally we get an opportunity to rub shoulders with the top graders and take on board any tips or advice that they freely offer,” she said.

Taylor trains three days a week with the Swans Academy – Mondays and Saturdays in Newcastle and each Wednesday at the club’s high quality Royal Hall Of Industries sporting hub at Sydney’s Moore Park.

As well as Swans’ 2005 premiership hero Davis, sixteen-year-old Taylor is surrounded by other fine mentors in Under 18 Academy Male Head Coach Mark McVeigh and Swans’ Academy Under 16 Female Coach Bronwyn Gulden, the mother of Swans midfield ace and 2023 All-Australian Errol Gulden.

Smith has turned in skilful performances for the club’s Academy and Top End Women’s squads these past two seasons and earlier this year was named the Hunter Central Coast AFL Rising Star and Best and Fairest Player in the Black Diamond Plate Womens premiership after helping Port Stephens Power qualify for the finals.

An all action midfielder, Taylor was identified by the Swans as a thirteen-year-old and won back-to-back premierships with the Marlins before gaining representative honours with the NSW AFL Under 15 team.

Watching the Swans progress to the AFLW finals this season has given the Port Stephens product a tremendous boost and incentive to succeed in 2024.

With a spring in her step, Taylor aims to represent the NSW/ACT Allies next season and continue her rise through the Swans Pathways program.

By Chris KARAS

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