[in] a great ruck/rover combination.”
Thus, Smakco’s reputation as a fierce in-and-under player was established at the very start of his footy career, an approach to footy that has served him well for more than 20 years. And, undoubtedly, he remains to this day, unafraid of the “rough stuff”!
Also at the Club in 1992, was one Leonard Hayes, the future St Kilda star. Lennie won the Most Consistent award for the Under 13s that year and another Demons notable, Barnaby Howarth, was runner-up Best & Fairest for the 13s. Given the caliber of these and other players in that team, it is no surprise that the Under 13s were premiers that year. In what was a very successful season for the Junior Club, the Under 15s and Under 17s also won premierships. Our Baulkham Hills cousins competed in three Grand Finals in 1992, but sadly missed out in all three!
Brant played eight seasons with Pennant Hills Juniors, 1992 – 99, playing 150 club games and winning three Grand Finals along the way. He was team captain for a number of seasons. In 1993 he was awarded Most Consistent in the Under 9s and also won this award in 1995 with the Under 11s. He was Best and Fairest once in 1998 (Under 14) and Runner Up twice in 1996 (Under 12 Red) and 1999 (Under 16), respectively. Brant also received the Umpires Best & Fairest award in 1998. He was a regular Hornsby & Hills District and Northside representative player during his junior years and in 1999 he was selected in the NSW Schoolboys Under 15 State Team (“NSW Blue Dogs”) that competed in the National Schoolboys Championships in Canberra that year.
During this period, two future famous footballers were making their way through junior footy at the Demons, brothers Mark and Jarrad McVeigh. Mark, a few years older than Brant, won the Under 13 Best and Fairest award in consecutive years 1993 and ’94, while Jarrad joined the club in 1994 and would become a team-mate of Brant’s in the following year. In fact, Jarrad would trump Brant to the 1996 B&F award but the result was reversed in 1998, when Brant finished ahead of Jarrad.
In 1994, Coach Leggott noted that Brant was a “talented footballer who really has all the skills to become a fine player, which I am sure that he will in the future.” This is another piece of remarkable foresight by one of Brant’s early mentors.
In 1995, Brant’s dad took over the coaching of the Under 11s in what would be a successful season, the team winning the flag over local rivals Westbrook by 18 points. The 1995 Yearbook notes that the Under 11s were undefeated with 16 wins during the home and away rounds. “In the final series they recorded one of the highest scoring margins ever by an Under 11 team in a finals series, beating Westbrook 82 points to 3 points. They remained the only undefeated team in all age Divisions.“ For his dad, Brant was “our goal scoring machine who finished the season with 79 goals”, a phenomenal record for a 10 year old.
During his last season with the Juniors in 1999, 14 year old Brant also made his senior club debut, playing 12 games with the Under 18s. The Demons won the Under 18 flag that season. His long-time friend and team-mate Seb Parker recalled:
“My first memory [of Brant] was as a 14 year old who was called up to play U/18’s during the 1999 season alongside his brother Craig who was playing in the U/18’s at the time. Whilst small in stature, even smaller back then, [Brant] more than handled himself against people 3-4 years older than him and went on to play in a premiership team that year.
Back in those days we would play U/18’s at 10 am at The Ern, park ourselves on the hill to watch reserve grade, then first grade with a few beverages to get ourselves through the afternoon. One Sunday, Brant turned in a very impressive performance to announce his arrival at the club. This ended up with him in the middle of the 1st grade team song, a team that included Jason Clarke and Anthony Brawn, then back at the Bowling Club in fine voice, then taking Monday off school, I believe. From memory, he was in Year 9 at the time!”
In the following year 2000, Brant’s obvious talent was recognized and he was selected to play in the inaugural Sydney Redback’s Under 16 representative side which competed in the Sydney AFL Under 18s competition. This new team finished 5th out of 12 sides, with a 9/7 win/loss ratio. Other notable Demons to play in that side included Jarrad McVeigh, Alex Huggins and David Smith, the latter a Westbrook Junior at the time.
Brant was also selected in the NSW-ACT Under 16 State side which competed in the U16 National Championships in Tasmania in July of 2000. This team, coached by former Swans star, Rod Carter, was undefeated Division 2 Champions that year. Brant also made his debut with the Swans Reserves in season 2000 and would play on and off with that team over the next couple of years. In 2002, he played with the NSW/ACT RAMS in the Under 18 National Championships held in Melbourne.
At age 16, Smakco made his first grade debut with the Pennant Hills Demons in 2001. In his first couple of seasons for the Dees his appearances were limited by his commitments to the Swans Reserves. Between 2004 and 2006 he dropped back to Reserve Grade before re-asserting himself, regaining his place in the senior side in 2007, where he remained for the next 7 seasons taking his senior games tally beyond 150. He was a member of the senior side that won the Premier Division flag in 2008. He received the Coaches Award in 2008 and 2012 and was adjudged Best Team Man in 2009. Although never having won a Best & Fairest award at the senior club, he has frequently been amongst the top vote-getters, indicative of his ability to consistently perform at a high level. He reached his 150 game milestone in 2012.
In 2014, he suffered an injury in Round 1 necessitating a knee reconstruction that kept him out of the game for the remainder of the season. Returning in 2015, he has stepped down to Reserve Grade where he is a critical member of the team’s mid-field ‘engine room’.
Whilst not the fastest on his feet, there is unanimous agreement amongst his team-mates that he has some of the quickest hands going around and, according to Clarkey his current coach, he is a “brilliant inside midfielder”. Clarkey’s assistant, Wayne ‘Razor’ Keating reckons Smakco is an “awesome in-and-under player … very creative with fast hands” and he likens his style to Greg Williams, the famous Swans player and Blue-bagger … that’s high praise! Razor also says he’s the “heart and soul” of the Club, such is his love for footy and the Penno Demons.
Seb Parker also notes: “Whilst his speed has diminished over the years, his quick hands and football nous has seen him play consistent football over an extended period. One of the smartest footballers going around I reckon.” Seb also thinks that Brant ”enjoys a social function and a few drinks with his mates, and is a very loyal person to have around the club.”
He’s nuggety in stature, just 173 cm tall, and he’s a tough and feisty competitor with good skills and a never-say-die attitude. There’s little argument that he’s the kind of footballer people love to watch. There’s a rumour going around that Smakco may retire from footy at the end of the current season, however, Seb “strongly doubts it given his love of football and Peter Barnes!” If Smakco does decide to hang up his boots, then he can rest assured that he has left his mark on the Club he loves so much and that he will go down as one of the best to have played in the “red and the blue.”
Although this piece is principally about Smakco and his achievements on the footy field, it is also opportune to acknowledge the significant contributions made to the Pennant Hills Demons and the local football community by the whole Jack family …. Peter, Judy and their sons Craig and Brant. Whilst we’ve heard about Smakco’s footy prowess, his older brother Craig also played footy with Penno Juniors (127 games) and Seniors (71 games). Like Brant, Craig played with some future AFL stars during his time at the Junior club including Lennie Hayes (St Kilda), Ray Hall (Richmond) and Mark McVeigh (Essendon), all in the one team. Like Smakco, Craig is also a very accomplished golfer, both playing off single figures.
Like many other parents, Peter and Judy have demonstrated their total commitment to their sons’ chosen sport, the footy club and the code, through many years of voluntary hands-on service to the players, teams and the Club. There is little doubt that their sons’ success at their chosen sports owes significantly to the love, support, time and energy of their parents over many years at the Footy. Peter and Judy are passionate and obsessive Swannies fans, in part owing to their relationship with current co-captains, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh, whom Peter coached at the Junior Club some years back. Brant on the other hand is a passionate Hawthorn fan, having started following the Hawks when the family lived in Melbourne.
When his sons joined Pennant Hills Juniors, Peter first came on board as coach of Craig’s under 11 side. In an assocation that lasted almost a decade Peter coached teams in eight seasons sharing in his sons’ on-field successes. He joined the Committee in 1992 and was responsible for ground set-up at home games … all those frosty, wet winter mornings! He then stepped up to become Junior Vice President before serving 3 years as Club President of the Juniors from 1997-99. After his sons graduated from the junior ranks, Peter also did a three year stint as Senior Club President from 2007-09. Some years ago Peter also found an interest in photography and has been the senior club’s unofficial ‘official’ photographer for quite some time.
With him all the way has been wife Judy, who helped on gameday mornings with set-up, canteen and BBQ. Judy is a legendary barracker at the Demons and was twice awarded the Mac McLarty Trophy for the best barracker in the Junior Club. This is an auspicious trophy that is only awarded to someone who particularly distinguishes themselves as a loud and passionate supporter, conspicuous for their flambuoyant words and actions. Judy is also a renowned banner maker, not only for her sons, but also was responsible for Clarkey and Brawny’s 300 game banners earlier this season. Judy was voted Best Clubperson at the Senior Club in 2007. She was awarded Life Membership for service to the Senior Club in 2012, as was Peter the year before in 2011.
The Jacks are a true example of the quintessential Demons family, passionate football people who have sacrificed much over the years to make the Junior and Senior Clubs the successes they are today.
What’s in a [nick] name?
Your author is not sure of the origin of Brant’s nickname ‘Smakco’ or whether it would be safe to put it in print … you should ask Brant himself? However, within the club there seems to be a contest about how to spell and pronounce it. On his dad’s smart phone it is ‘Smakco’, but I found myself spelling it ‘Smacko’, while Clarkey has it down as ‘Schmack’ on his magnet board. Anyway, whatever the spelling or pronunciation, it has attained a unique place within the Demons lexicon and when he’s no longer playing and people have forgotten who ‘Brant Jack’ was, the legend of Smakco will undoubtedly live on in Demons’ history.
Despite his somewhat phlegmatic disposition, Smakco is undoubtedly a very popular player and person amongst his team-mates, coaches and committee, who is greatly admired for his footy ability and his passion and commitment to the game and to the Pennant Hills Demons. So Smakco, thanks to you and your family for all the years of unstinting service given freely to this great Club.
Congratulations Smakco (aka Smacko, Schmack, etc, etc) on reaching your 200 game milestone!