By Russell Bennett
Perry Lewis-Smith is a machine, one fueled by doubters – people who’ve knocked him back, or who’ve said no.
The 18-year-old Casey Demons utility is as strong under the packs with his clean hands as he is on the outside with his relentless run and carry and sublime footskills.
But he’ll never be the one to say that – he’s too modest and unassuming.
Just don’t mistake that for a lack of self-belief. He’s as self-driven as any prodigious young footballer his age.
Lewis Smith’s nickname is ‘The Machine’ for very good reason. He’s won 10 best and fairest category awards as a junior player – three of them league awards.
He captained the Parkmore under-17s to a South East Juniors premiership in 2015, gathering 44 disposals through the midfield and winning the best on ground medal in the grand final.
He then moved on to the Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup last year, where he played as an attacking half-back. He was constantly in the club’s top five players for key performance indicators, and kept his direct opponents goalless throughout the season.
Lewis-Smith had the highest registered and recorded beep test – 15.7 – out of all TAC Cup players competing in the 2016 combines, whether they be Rookie Me, the Victorian state, or National combines and also recorded a 15.9 at TAC Cup testing day.
When he wasn’t playing at Sandringham last year, he ventured down to Dingley in the SFL under Shane Morwood. Despite being just 17 at the time, Lewis-Smith fell just one vote short of the winning the Dingoes’ best and fairest… in only seven games played.
In his limited appearances for the Dingoes, he stole the show with two 40-disposal games and a 30-touch effort while also booting 12 goals during one month of domination.
After signing at Casey, he recorded the best time in the three kilometre time trial – 9.42 – and shone in his pre-season debut against the Central Australian Redtails from the Northern Territory. He then followed that up another two outstanding displays – the first against Port Melbourne at Casey.
Lewis-Smith has also won various Victorian state track and field cross country championships, including finishing a close second in the steeplechase despite never having run the discipline before.
He had to earn his spot on the Casey list for 2017, and he knows he’ll have to earn his debut in their seniors.
Former Collingwood premiership team mates Morwood and Mick Gayfer are two of Lewis-Smith’s mentors, and he’s also got a particularly strong relationship with Casey VFL coach Justin Plapp.
“He’s really supportive, he’s a great teacher, and he’s a great coach,” Lewis-Smith said.
“He really works to your strengths, he’s a great communicator and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
And most importantly – “He’s very straight to the point.”
That’s what Lewis-Smith thrives on – honest, direct feedback on his game and how to take it to the next level.
“I have to play good, consistent footy in the development squad and earn my sport but there’s definitely an opportunity for me to play in the ones,” the young gun said.
“I’ve been knocked back a few times and that definitely keeps driving me.
“I just like to go out there and get the job done and let my footy do my talking for me.”
Highly composed under pressure, poised, and with strong instincts – the footy ground is Lewis-Smith’s office, and he can’t wait to knuckle down and get to work whenever he can.
“I want to just keep playing consistent footy week in, week out and hopefully work my way up into the ones and if I play good footy there, to get drafted,” he said. “That’s been the goal for so long.
“I think I’m good enough to get drafted, and the window is still open.”