not here to make up the numbers: ralphsmith ready to prove himself against the best
Hugo Ralphsmith skipped under 10s footy.
Even at a young age, the competitiveness and eagerness of the then fledgling footballer was well on display.
Playing for the East Brighton Vampires in the SMJFL with Dragons teammate and close family friend Finn Maginness, Ralphsmith decided to find a way around the league’s no tackling rule.
“They brought in that no tackling rule in under 10s, so we just kind of skipped and went to under 11s,” he reflected.
Now, the up-and-coming forward-midfielder appears well-placed to attract significant attention from AFL recruiters after a strong NAB League season, in which he averaged 15.8 disposals together with a goal a game.
For advice, Ralphsmith recently turned to former Dragons teammate Liam Stocker over lunch, who was last year drafted by Carlton at pick 19.
“Stock and I are pretty good mates, we’ve kept in contact a little bit,” he explained.
“He took me through what he was feeling like last year in my position, coming up to the combine and the draft."
Though understandably nervous, the Vic Metro representative sees the combine in particular as a golden opportunity to showcase perhaps his greatest asset.
“There’s definitely a lot of nerves about the draft and also the combine, because it’s a pretty good chance to show what I want to show [with my] running ability,” he said.
“I don’t think I got to showcase it a lot this year playing forward.
“I think my real strength in my game is my running ability, so if I can pull a good time in the 2ker and a good Yo-Yo score it’d really help me with my own personal confidence.”
Ralphsmith being presented his Dragons jumper by 2018 captain Bailey Smith
While the Haileybury student relished the opportunity to serve the side as a predominant forward throughout the 2019 campaign, it’s that same running power which may see him develop into a full-time midfielder down the track - and he wants to emulate the best.
“I like to be around the ball or have the ball in my hands,” he said.
“Further down in my career I want to progress to be an inside mid with outside attributes, a Josh Kelly or Nat Fyfe type player.
“They’re stars of the game so obviously pretty high standards but that’s what I want to follow on from.”
Ralphsmith has always admired the best and the biggest of the AFL, one of which even served as the catalyst for a swapping of teams in early childhood.
“I used to go for St Kilda, but now I go for Hawthorn, and probably the turning point was when Buddy was coming into his own,” he reflected.
Largely motivated by his desire to maintain a high level of fitness, playing and winning with mates as well as the fear of feeling “like a slob”, Ralphsmith’s active lifestyle extends far beyond football, where the athletics track and the waves of Blairgowrie’s back beach also play an important role.
“I grew up doing athletics with [Dragons teammate] Miles Bergman and we ran against each other a lot and together in relays,” he explained.
“I love surfing as well, surfing’s a big hobby of mine, I try to get down to Blairgowrie as much as I can.”
This year’s draft combine will run from October 1-4, with the national draft taking place on the 27th of November.