Fremantle draftee Tanner Smith is a "level-headed kid" who won't be overawed if he makes a round-one western derby debut, according to former mentor and North Ballarat regional manager Phil Partington.
The Dockers yesterday named Smith, 18, in their squad for Saturday night's NAB Cup clash against Carlton at Etihad Stadium.
The 196cm, 90kg key-position player took part in Fremantle's scratch match against Adelaide last Saturday.
He will be joined this week by reigning Doig medallist Ryan Crowley, appearing for the first time since tearing a pectoral muscle earlier in the pre-season, and forward Hayden Ballantyne, who was rested from the Crows clash.
Midfielders Michael Barlow and Stephen Hill won't play. Hill suffered an arm injury against Adelaide, but Fremantle are confident he'll play in the March 23 derby.
Captain Matthew Pavlich will miss the game to be at the birth of his first child.
While he didn't star in the Crows game, Smith moved well playing both forward and back, gathering seven disposals, two tackles and a score assist.
Taken at pick No.36 in last year's AFL draft, his early efforts at training impressed coach Ross Lyon, who labelled him "a beast" in an interview with _The Weekend West _ last week.
Partington, who dealt with Smith for almost four years in the North Ballarat underage system, said he coped extremely well in high-pressure situations and would not look out of place if he was granted a round-one debut for the Dockers.
"That's the beauty of the NAB Cup games, to expose these players in an AFL environment to see how they handle the pressures and the style and the quickness of the game," Partington said.
"Tanner's got that athletic ability that he could step up to AFL level quite quickly. He's certainly got a fantastic endurance base and he's also got great closing speed.
"Certainly round one of the full AFL season is a bit different, no doubt about that, but I think he can step up well into the AFL environment when round one comes."
Partington said Smith showed a determination to continue improving throughout his junior career, stepping up to meet the challenges of the AIS-AFL Academy and various levels of State representation.
"The thing with Tanner is he loves hard work and he's not afraid to work hard," Partington said. "He's so much of a sponge, he wants to learn all the time and seeks feedback. He'll be taking on what the coaches at Fremantle are saying and doing his best all the time.""Tanner's got that athletic ability that he could step up to AFL level quite quickly."" North Ballarat regional manager *Phil Partington *
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