Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith has suffered an ACL injury, the club has confirmed.
The 23-year-old went down during Wednesday’s training session before being sent for scans which confirmed their worst fears.
Smith is expected to miss the entire 2024 AFL season, the final year of his contract with the Dogs.
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“We’re all extremely disappointed for Bailey, and empathise with him greatly,” Bulldogs footy boss Chris Grant said.
“The entire club will rally around him during this difficult time as he begins his rehab journey.”
Smith had an indifferent year in 2023 as rumours began to swirl about his future beyond next year.
Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith. Credit: Getty
But despite finishing outside the top 10 in his club’s best and fairest this year, his value on the open market was set to be tested in the coming season.
Rival clubs Geelong and Hawthorn have already sounded out the possibly of luring him away from Whitten Oval.
Adding to the intrigue, Smith has put off contract talks with the Dogs, despite having insisted he is “very committed” to staying in red, white and blue.
7NEWS Melbourne’s Mitch Cleary said earlier this year that it would come as a surprise to him if Smith was re-signed with the Bulldogs by July next year, by which time the jungle drums would be beating heavily.
Smith’s loss to the Bulldogs beyond next year would prove a massive blow for the 2021 grand finalists, and not just for his ability on-field.
With almost 350,000 followers on Instagram, he is arguably the most marketable player in the game, and fronted the club’s new sponsorship announcement in October.
He had also made an impressive start to his seventh season, having won the Bulldogs’ 2km time trial last month.
Smith was taken with pick No.7 in the 2018 draft.