The term ‘rollercoaster’ in the football world is one that has been tossed around so many times that in an odd way, it’s almost lost its meaning.
But when looking for a way to describe Tyanna Smith’s past two years, it’s the word that fits the bill perfectly. And this rollercoaster has been one hell of a ride so far.
It’s come complete with stomach-dropping lows through a ruptured ACL injury - done in November of 2021 in the last 30 seconds of the day’s training - and two seasons out of the game which threatened to put out the spark of what started off as a blistering career in red, white and black.
Yet as all rollercoasters have their twists, turns and sickening plummets, the opposite end of the spectrum in the soaring highs and sharp ascents to the top are just as present and essential to that term ‘rollercoaster’.
Now with a return to AFLW 889 days in the making and another podium finish at the club’s Best & Fairest to go with it, Smith is skyrocketing her way back up after inking a new four-year deal to tie her to the Saints until at least the end of 2027.
“Missing two seasons in the one year was pretty heartbreaking at the time, but I think it probably held me in the best stead possible,” Smith told saints.com.au.
“I wasn’t rushed back early, I was able to get a full pre-season in and allowed me to get as fit and as strong as I’d ever been. At the start of the season I wasn’t playing the way that I wanted to, but I guess I got better as the year went on and more confident in the body. But I didn’t really think about the knee at all, which was really good.
“I still don’t think I really hit where I thought I could, but I definitely started to feel more comfortable, especially after Round 3 when the team started getting the results we knew we were capable of.
“It was just so good to be back out there again.”
Smith is convinced she didn’t quite hit the heights she set herself after such a long stint out of the game. Even if she fell short of what was expected in her return campaign, especially after such a lengthy layoff - nearly 1000 days in duration - it would be forgiven.
But everything else says otherwise. She hit the mark, and then some.
For the second time in as many seasons, Smith finished runner-up at the club’s Best & Fairest - this time behind four-time winner Jaimee Lambert - and was the recipient the club’s Always A Saint Award for best embodying the club’s values on and off the field.
So long out of the game was the best teacher that there were no shortcuts in getting to the top. Smith now has another slew of awards and recognition to show for it.
“I was pretty shocked on the night to be honest!” Smith said with a chuckle when asked about her most recent podium finish.
“Obviously everything that comes with it is nice, but it was just really good to have some team success and some really positive results towards the latter stages of the year.”
Smith has long been earmarked as a vital cornerstone of the Saints’ push towards finals football and eventually the ultimate success, with that reaffirmed with the 21-year-old penning a four-year deal - the maximum length of AFLW contracts - late last week.
Alongside Smith in committing to the long-term are past and present Best & Fairest winners Georgia Patrikios, Jaimee Lambert and Olivia Vesely, dynamic duo Nicola Xenos and Molly McDonald and electrifying Sun-turned-Saint Serene Watson.
This was just the second season Patrikios and Smith had played side by side (the pair finishing on the Best & Fairest dais on both occasions), the first time she’d partnered fully with McDonald and Lambert through the midfield and most surprisingly, this season just gone was the first time her and Vesely had lined up in red, white and black on-field together.
“It’s very exciting for me. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do in having a long-term contract at a club and I’m thrilled to do that at the Saints,” Smith said.
“I just think what we’re building is really exciting and I’m thrilled to be a part of that. We’ve only really played together as a full group this year and most of those girls are still quite young. If we can stay together for another four years and even longer in the future, I think that’ll hold the club in good stead.
“We don’t want to put a ceiling on anything. Whatever comes our way and however hard we work is where we’ll end up. Hopefully over the next few years we can work up to the ultimate success and what everyone is after.
“If it comes soon or if it’s a little bit later, I’ll be there for the ride.”