It was expected that the Hawks would receive little or no compensation for Smith given his age and the fact that they are getting Kyle Hartigan, also a free agent, from Adelaide, which offsets the compensation to Hawthorn.
However, the AFL has handed the Hawks a compensation selection at the end of the third round – currently pick 42.
Smith said a big part of the decision to join the Cats over going to the Demons or staying at Hawthorn was the country lifestyle available near Geelong, and his family that lived in the area.
“To be honest it has been a very difficult decision,” Smith told media on Friday.
“Probably had a few sleepless nights over the last three or four nights and the heart was certainly pulling me towards Hawthorn but in the end the head won.
“I am up for a new challenge, a new journey and very excited to be a part of the Geelong Football Club.”
He said Hawthorn had been a massive part of his life, and he was very thankful for the role the club played in shaping him.
“I have been so blessed to be coached by so many incredible coaches,” he said.
“The teammates I have had over the time have been absolutely awesome … and the fans and members and incredible support I got.
“I will be forever grateful for every single one of them.”
He said while the rivalry between the clubs over his career had been genuinely fierce and full of dislike for one another, he had always had respect for the Cats.
“We’ve had some massive games. To say I wasn’t a Geelong fan was probably a bit of an under[statement],” Smith said.
“They’re an organisation I have always respected.”
Hawks football boss Graham Wright thanked Smith for his contribution to the club, a vital part of their three-peat premiership success from 2013 to 2015.
“Issie has been a part of a lot of success during his time at Hawthorn and has given our club a decade of valuable service,” Wright said.
“As an unrestricted free agent, Issie exercised his right to explore the market – that’s the nature of the mechanism of free agency.
“We wish Issie and his family all the best in their next chapter.”
The Cats, who lost the grand final to Richmond, are also adding Shaun Higgins, 32, from North Melbourne in what will be a trade, and GWS star forward Jeremy Cameron is seeking to join them as a restricted free agent, though the Giants say they will match the offer to Cameron and force a trade.
The Giants have three days to match Carlton’s offer, but Williams is set to join the Blues on a five-year contract and will likely play in the midfield there, as opposed to primarily playing as a half-back as he did at the Giants.
North Melbourne also lodged paperwork to receive GWS’ unrestricted free agent Aiden Corr. The Giants are not expected to match any bid.
In a GWS statement in September, the Giants said Williams “has informed the club that his preferred destination is a Victorian club to be closer to his sister who’s based in Albury”.
Meanwhile, Adelaide’s 26-year-old midfielder Rory Atkins will join Gold Coast on a four-year deal worth $400-450,000 per season.
The AFL has handed the Crows an end-of-second-round compensation pick for losing Atkins.
The Crows and the Suns lodged paperwork to get the unrestricted free agent to Queensland with the AFL on Friday morning, when the free agency period officially opened.
“After speaking with Stuart Dew and the players, it’s clear it’s an exciting time to be on-board,” Atkins said.
“I’m confident I can bring aspects of my game both on and off the field to help the club achieve success.”
Atkins’ decision to leave the Crows was made public back in August.
Atkins played every game of the Crows’ 2017 grand final year. He fell out of favour this season, and the Crows did not match the Suns’ four-year contract offer for the 101-game player.
Gold Coast’s head of football Jon Haines told AFL Trade Radio on Friday that Richmond defender/winger Oleg Markov had requested a trade to the Queensland club.
“We are obviously glad that Oleg is keen to come to us. Richmond is a good club to deal with so we are confident we can get that deal done,” he said.
Anthony is a sports reporter at The Age.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.