AS a forward with close to two decades of experience Nathan Smith has had plenty of special footy moments, but season 2022 rates as the best of his career.
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It's the season that Smith joined the Bathurst Bushrangers and was part of a side that finished as the undefeated men's tier one champions of the AFL Central West.
It's the season where Smith finished as the league's leading tier one goal kicker with 58 regular season majors and another in the grand final win over the Bathurst Giants.
It's the season in which Smith, despite missing three games and half of the round nine clash against Dubbo, ranked second in the best and fairest vote count.
That count was revealed on Friday night at the AFL Central West's online presentation, Smith finishing as runner-up to Bathurst Giants midfielder Cooper Brien.
"It was a bit of surprise considering how many games I ended up missing, I missed three games, so I was pleasantly surprised to see I polled pretty well in the end," Smith said.
"Like I thought Cooper's year was a standout and I was definitely backing him to take it out at the start of the night before the count had started.
"He showed how good he is in that grand final, he took it right up to us and nearly dragged the Giants over the line single-handedly.
"So to get recognised as the runner-up in that award, I'm very proud as well. Hopefully I can take that going forward and hopefully go one better."
The votes that the six-foot-five tall forward picked up were for his efforts inside 50 for the Bushrangers and they were certainly impressive.
The only time Smith played and didn't finish with a goal was in round nine against Dubbo - a game in which he was concussed and forced from the field prior to half-time.
Smith kicked five or more goals in seven of the 13 games he played, with his biggest haul an eight-goal effort against the Giants in round two.
"Being a key forward I definitely pride myself on kicking goals, so there's a lot of pride I take in that performance, especially in the way I could influence the team to win and be as successful as we were this year," he said.
"It's one of my more successful years in terms of numbers, I've always been a noted goal kicker, but with the team being as strong as we are, it aided me in terms of being able to put those numbers on the board.
"If I kicked straight as well I probably would've got a lot more, but that's on me."
Though no particular goal stood out to Smith, he said the way he started his tenure at the Bushrangers was something he's proud of. He led the goal kicking tally from round two onwards.
"I'm pretty proud of the early games, just being able to impose myself on the competition being quite new," he said.
"Those first two or three rounds I felt were really pivotal in terms of trying to set up our season."
In the grand final Smith admits he had a quite game, he kicked just the one goal in his side's 79-68 win over the Giants, but he was delighted to finish with a premiership medal.
"We managed to scrap our way all the way to the end and finished what we started, so that was a pretty special moment. It was the first premiership I've ever won playing footy," he said.
"That was pretty special, I've played in a lot of losing grand finals before, so it was good to get the chocolates finally.
"I've been playing since I played a couple of seasons in under 9s growing up in Melbourne and I'm 27 now."
So will Smith be back in Bushrangers colours next year? Try and stop him.
"Nothing is going to change there. At all," Smith said.
"It's a great club, like I have been involved in a lot of clubs moving around Australia and I even played a little bit overseas in Ireland when I was living there.
"But definitely being with the Bushies, there's something special there in terms of the environment, the love they have for each other and the want to succeed.
"It's a club I'm very proud to be a part of and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next few years before the body gives up on me."
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