At a glance:
- New Saint Tyanna Smith says getting to run through the West Coast banner as an eight-year-old kickstarted her dream to play football.
- The former basketballer switched back to Aussie Rules when the AFLW competition began in 2017, playing just four seasons before being drafted. Smith had only played one season of Under 9s prior.
- Smith was selected at pick No. 6 at this year's Women's Draft, joining Alice Burke, Renee Saulitis, Jacqui Vogt and Tahlia Meyer in becoming Saints in 2020.
The distant murmuring of the 20,000-strong crowd grows louder as she begins to emerge from the race, the sound quickly evolving into a roar as she runs through the banner.
Moments later, footy in hand, the youngster slots a goal from the square as the cheers continue to reverberate under the Docklands Stadium roof.
It feels like a dream.
And for an eight-year-old Tyanna Smith, fully kitted out in West Coast apparel in mid-2011, it appeared to be the closest she'd come to taking to a footy field at the elite level.
“My brother (Ashley Smith) was playing for the Eagles at the time, he would have been in his second season there,” Smith told saints.com.au.
“He set up for me to run through the banner when they played in Melbourne against the Bulldogs. They gave me a footy and I got to kick a goal on Etihad which was pretty cool.
Fellow Saints Caitlin Greiser (10 years old, 2009) and Alice Burke (one, 2003) have similar stories, experiencing the unmatched footy tradition alongside football greats Brent Harvey and Nathan Burke respectively.
Although being immersed in the footy world for most of her life, Smith had minimal experience with the Sherrin at competitive level during her pre-teen years.
Two seasons of AusKick and a single year of Under 9s football at Beaconsfield was all the future Saint had to her name, before trading in her boots for sneakers to pursue a junior career in basketball.
When the AFLW competition commenced in 2017, the door for Smith to fulfil her childhood dream swung wide open.
“I always was around footy, even when I didn’t play and was playing basketball,” Smith said.
“When I came back into local footy with Beaconsfield in the first year I played, I thought this is definitely what I wanted to do and from there just kept going.
“Moving up in the ranks, that definitely gave me confidence that I could move up and play at a higher level.”
Multiple Premierships at Beaconsfield, representative honours for Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country and All-Australian selection as a bottom-ager have all been added to Smith's CV in the four years she’s been back in the system.
The speedy midfielder was tipped to be a first-round selection heading into the 2020 Women's Draft, with those predictions proving true after the Saints snared her at pick No. 6.
A FaceTime call from Rhi Watt moments after she’d been selected was confirmation of that goal she set out to achieve when she was just eight years old.
"It's a bit of a dream at the moment!"— St Kilda FCW (@stkildafcw) October 6, 2020
Rhi Watt calls Tyanna Smith to welcome her to the club ?? pic.twitter.com/KDAh7HNxOK
Smith joins fellow Stingrays graduates Molly McDonald, Isabella Shannon and Jessica Matin at RSEA Park, with the latter her teammate at Beaconsfield for the better part of five years.
Now, the 18-year-old will be hoping to tear through a red, white and black banner in the Saints' season opener against the Western Bulldogs on January 29.
“I was really hoping to come to St Kilda and just coming here through the draft straight out of school has been a pretty cool experience,” Smith said.
“I just hope to have a successful first season, try and stay injury-free and play as many games as possible.
“I’d love to play Round 1 hopefully – that’d be my goal – but just to help out the team as much as I can and put the team first is what I’d be happy with.”