Grand finalist St Kilda last night blasted young player Joel Smith after
the 20-year-old announced his defection to Hawthorn.
St Kilda chief executive Don Hanly said he was extremely angry and
disappointed in the circumstances at losing a young player of Smith's calibre.
"Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke and Stewart Loewe re-signed with us when we were
at our lowest ebb on the understanding that players we drafted were going to
take us into the finals, and now one of them has been put to the test and he's
turned his back on everybody, including the mates he lived with, was drafted
with and played with," Hanly said.
It was the second major off-season setback for the Saints, who a month
earlier, lost disgruntled full-back Jamie Shanahan to Melbourne.
Smith last night rejected Hanly's claims, saying he was "forced out" by the
St Kilda hierarchy. "They hadn't been interested until this week and had turned
their back on me, so I had to start loking elsewhere," Smith said. "It was never
a money thing, it involved securing my future.
"After a serious knee injury, I was looking for security and I didn't get
that. I never wanted to leave, but I felt by St Kilda's lack of negotiation that
they've forced me out of there. I don't know if I'll ever be right again, but
Hawthorn was willing to back me, so I'm willing to back them."
Smith signed with the Hawks at Glenferrie Oval yesterday after failing to
come to terms with the Saints. Hawthorn will claim Smith officially with
selection No. 2, behind the Demons, in this month's pre-season draft.
He will not play this year after rupturing the anterior cruciate and medial
ligaments in his right knee against Collingwood in round 18 last year, but the
Hawks gambled on Smith making a complete recovery after a favorable diagnosis
from surgeon Peter Wilson.
The former Saint has agreed to a three-year deal with Hawthorn, where he will
earn about $300,000 for seasons 1999 and 2000, with a great part of his
Smith was unhappy that negotiations with the Saints had stalled until last
Friday when he was offered a better deal to stay at Moorabbin. Apart from an
increase in remuneration and security to switch to Glenferrie Oval, it is
believed that another factor was a promise by coach Ken Judge to play him as an
His agent, Paul Connors of Flying Start, said yesterday he put an offer to St
Kilda last July and received no formal reply until November. "I think St Kilda
supporters have a right to know that Joel tried to secure his future with the
Saints in the middle of last year," Connors said.
The Saints, who experienced salary-cap problems because of a high number of
players coming out of contract after a successful year, were not prepared to
guarantee Smith's three-year contract to the same extent as Hawthorn.
"We offered him a three-year deal, which was basically that if he played in
1999 and 2000, he got paid," Hanly said. "We were not prepared to guarantee him
an amount of money if he didn't play. We were close to Hawthorn's offer if he
achieved certain targets."
Hanly said Smith wanted his new contract totally guaranteed. "We weren't
prepared to embark on a three-year guaranteed contract after major knee surgery.
We were prepared to pay him if he played the games."
Smith's defection leaves St Kilda with 40 listed senior players and the
provision to select two players in this month's pre-season draft.
Hawthorn yesterday announced that former North Melbourne football manager
Michael Brown would take over as the club's new chief executive next month,
succeeding former premiership player Morton Browne, who resigned last year after
12 months in the post.