FREMANTLE assistant coach Simon Lloyd has earmarked injured teenager Tanner Smith for a key defensive post.
Smith, 19, had season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week, ruling him out of any potential Dockers’ finals campaign.
The Kalkee export was injured playing for WAFL side Peel Thunder on July 6.
Fremantle opted to send Smith in for surgery, with his long-term future in mind.
“Tanner had his shoulder operation in Melbourne earlier this week. It was a successful operation,” Lloyd told the Mail-Times.
“He is back at home with his parents and sister for a week or so and will go back to Melbourne to see the surgeon.
“By Wednesday next week he’ll be back in Perth.
“He had his shoulder strapped for a period of time so there were issues but it was a big knock.”
Lloyd said Smith, a Kees’ premiership player, would start light training within two weeks.
“I had a good chat to Tanner on the phone yesterday and he is very buoyant and positive,” he said.
“Within 12 weeks he should be back into full training.
“Having the operation in July means he’ll be ready to go at the start of pre-season.”
The former North Ballarat Rebel had played a variety of roles for Peel Thunder, notching 11 senior games before injury.
“He is a really hard worker. Tanner is very important for us,” Lloyd said.
“Going into the future we see him playing a key role in defence.
“The fact-of-the-matter is he had the opportunity throughout training sessions to play on the likes of Matthew Pavlich.
“He’s learning a great deal from the best forwards in the game.”
Lloyd said the 196-centimetre Smith had adjusted to the AFL lifestyle after the Dockers snapped him up with pick 36 in the 2012 national draft.
Smith made his debut in round four against Hawthorn, earning a last-minute call-up for injured All-Australian defender Luke McPharlin, who failed a concussion test.
It was his only game in Dockers’ colours, but he was on the cusp of senior selection, named an emergency numerous times.
“The coaching staff have been very impressed,” Lloyd said.
“He has settled in well, he is popular among the group and is developing a good understanding of how we want him to play.
“One of his major focuses is gaining weight.
“At Tanner’s size it’s tough, as he found out against Hawthorn, playing on bigger opponents.
“He came in at 87 kilos and is now above 90kg.
“He’s put weight on in his first season and will continue to do so in the pre-season.”
Fremantle plays Richmond at the MCG on Sunday in a crucial match for both sides’ finals prospects. The Dockers are after a top four finish, while the Tigers are eyeing their first finals campaign since 2001.