Questions about Bailey Smith’s future at the Western Bulldogs will not go away with powerhouse Victorian clubs still “neck deep” in the race to sign the AFL superstar.
Smith is one of the most marketable players in the league, but he emerged as a shock trade target this year in the aftermath of an underwhelming season.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Bailey Smith opens up on AFL future.
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Smith has a contract for 2024 and the Western Bulldogs have said the 22-year-old is “a required player”.
But critics have come for him after this year’s form dip that coincided with fewer midfield minutes and more time forward of the ball.
“It was a different change this year … I hope I play more midfield next year,” Smith told Channel 7 in September.
The race for Bailey Smith’s signature will be hot in 2024. Credit: Getty Images
“I probably wasn’t good at just accepting the (forward) role. I did a bit, but more was I just want to play in the midfield.
“Next year, whatever is thrown at me I’ll just attack it as well as I can. I just want to win.”
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As the whispers grew louder that Smith was not entirely happy with his role, he received interest from Hawthorn and Geelong.
But he said he was “very committed” to the Bulldogs, although he remains contracted only for 2024.
“I just want to keep fuelling the fire there. I just want to go all the way, so the red, white and blue is the best place to do it,” Smith said.
Speaking on the Tradies Podcast, Channel 7 chief AFL reporter Mitch Cleary said Geelong was “an obvious fit” for Smith.
“Bailey Smith. Right here right now, Hawthorn or Geelong? Who’s in front?” Cleary asked veteran footy journalist Sam McClure.
McClure said: “Right here, right now … I’d have Collingwood and Essendon neck deep in it as well.”
Cleary: “Why on earth do Essendon need another midfielder?”
McClure: “Because they don’t have many very good ones.”
Cleary: “(Darcy) Parish, (Zach) Merrett, they gave pick 5 last year for (Elijah) Tsatas, (Archie) Perkins is coming along, he’s a top-10 pick …”
McClure: “You’ve mentioned one good midfielder in that group.”
Cleary: “Oh, what has Darcy Parish done to you?”
McClure: “No, no, nothing, but you talk about him like he’s Chris Judd.”
Cleary: “I’m talking centre bounce guys, that’s where Bailey Smith wants to play … Geelong would be the most obvious fit. Their midfield with (Patrick) Dangerfield, (Cam) Guthrie and their age demographic.”
McClure: “Bailey makes sense at Geelong, I agree.
“Put it this way, I would be shocked if Bailey Smith has re-signed at the Western Bulldogs by July.
“If they (uncontracted players) don’t sign by then, you know things are moving.”
Cleary: “I’m with you on that.”
Veteran football journalist Jon Ralph also said Smith was an 80 per cent chance of leaving the Bulldogs next year.
Cleary also revealed if Taylor Adams had not gone to Sydney, the Swans would have gone hard at Port Adelaide’s Ollie Wines.
Cleary, who broke the news about Adams’ move to the Swans, said he discovered that nugget while investigating some club inquiries around Wines.
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