Almanac Footy: Bailey Smith: Dedicated and driven young gun





I recently had the privilege to speak to Bailey Smith, captain of the Sandringham Dragons TAC Cup team, 2018 Under 18 All-Australian and rated as a possible high draft pick. I found the polite, well spoken, highly motivated young man a pleasure to chat with.


Football began for Bailey Smith when he followed his older brother to Auskick at the East Malvern Knights Football Club. Bailey was a year below the bottom age but joined in anyway. He stayed with East Malvern right up until Under 15s, currently listed Sydney Swan Angus Styles among his teammates.


Also at East Malvern he first met Richmond’s Jack Higgins and alongside his father Greg he cites them both as massive influences on his football. Starting in Year 7, they would meet two to three times a week at venues like East Malvern’s Central Park, or later on Gosch’s Paddock, run 13 to 15 kilometres and do skill work. Even to the extent of training early on Christmas morning.


Bailey was first noticed by TAC Cup team the Sandringham Dragons while playing Under 13s at East Malvern, and after three games for the Dragons’ Under 16 team, represented Vic Metro at the National Under 16 Championships, his first selection at representative level. Bailey was disappointed with his performances in those games, feeling he was not quite prepared and ready for that level.


2017 was a real breakout year for Bailey, being picked as a bottom ager to play for the Sandringham Dragons from Round 1, in addition to playing for his school Xavier College in the APS competition. A huge game in Round 14 for Sandringham, with 44 disposals (22 contested) at 72% efficiency with ten clearances, showed his capabilities as a hard running inside midfielder. While Sandringham heartbreakingly lost the 2017 TAC Cup Grand Final by two points, Bailey, still only 16, stood up on the big stage with 25 disposals and six tackles.




His 2017 season earned him a place in the AFL Academy, with the squad having a camp in Darwin and then a trip to the USA for a High Performance training camp aimed at preparing players for their draft year. Bailey enjoyed the professionalism of coaches including Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie and Luke Power, a wonderful experience for a 17 year old. On return Bailey had the opportunity to train with Carlton during the pre-season, a real eye opener for him to see first hand the Summer regime of an elite level club.


Bailey was appointed captain of the Sandringham Dragons for 2018, as well as skipper of the Xavier College team. I ask Bailey about Jeremy Barnard, his coach at the Dragons. He describes Barnard as “so knowledgeable, a perfectionist with a game plan very much up to date with modern game styles of AFL teams”. He also was full of praise for Dragons midfield coach Jackson Kornberg, citing him as a big influence who does plenty of extra work with him.


Selection for the Vic Metro team for the 2018 National Under 18 Championships followed, with Bailey determined to have a much bigger influence than he had at the 2016 Under 16 Championships where he was so disappointed with his efforts. 28 disposals and 10 tackles against Western Australia at Optus Stadium. 26 disposals in a best on ground performance in the win against the Allies in Southport.


Three goals in another best on performance against Vic Country at the MCG. Bailey loved the feeling of running on the MCG, almost unable to describe just how good it felt to run on the hallowed turf. Describing it as feeling so good “you feel you can do no wrong”. Finishing off with 22 disposals, seven clearances and six tackles in the loss at Etihad Stadium to a very strong, championship winning South Australian team. A deserved selection in the midfield of the 2018 Under 18 team ensued.





Bailey is a Hawthorn supporter, and when asked which AFL players he admires and would like to emulate their style of play he lists Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Mitchell. While his commitments are full on with both the Sandringham Dragons and his schooling at Xavier College, both organisations do their best to work in together to give him the best opportunities, with good time management being an important skill Bailey has learnt well. Bailey for the most part has forsaken a social life, a tough balance while maintaining friendships, but describes it as “short term pain” to reach his ultimate goal.


As for other sports, Bailey has played some basketball, but it is athletics, especially track events, that he has really enjoyed and excelled at. His favourite event is the 400m, but has also done well at the 100m, 200m and 800m distances.


Bailey is full of praise for his parents for all their support, from driving him to training and games to making a big effort to keep his home life separate from his football life. Also he is very thankful to his girlfriend Charlotte and to her family all the fantastic support they give.


A very impressive young man both on and off field, look forward to following his career, he has certainly worked extremely hard for his opportunities. Go well Bailey!




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About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    A big thank you to Natalie, Colleen and Dean for setting up the chat with Bailey, and to Bailey himself for being such a good sport. Would love to see him end up at Collingwood!

  2. Dave Brown says

    Incredible how professional these young men and women now are, even before they make it to the big league. Good luck to Bailey, I’m sure he’d look a treat in the fruit tingles too.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Luke for the terrific insight in to Bailey will follow him with interest

  4. Neil Anderson says

    As you now know Luke, Bailey is a Bulldog taken at pick 7 in the draft yesterday. I have seen his family interviewed after he was selected and they are all quality people. The Bulldogs have really done their background check on Bailey well. Not only regarding his football ability, but on the support he obviously he gets from his family. They were more than happy to switch from Hawthorn supporters to now follow the Dogs.
    I was hoping we would pick up a key-position player like Max King, but listening to Bailey speak and others speak about his credentials, he has won me over as the Bulldog’s first pick.

  5. Crackers, the Bulldogs would be so pleased with how this selection decision has played out.
    Bailey Smith is going to be a generational player.

  6. Nick Kossatch says

    Broke my heart last night but this kid is a jet with the rockstar looks, blue eyes and blonde mullet. as Offspring sang ‘ You gonna go far kid’…

  7. I am gobsmacked by how that unfolded last night. Brilliant coaching was a big part of it, but then the players have to deliver. They willed themselves from go to whoa.

    Sets up the prospect of a brilliant Grand Final.

  8. Tore Port a new one; stepping up on the big stage suits him.

    Good to see this one get a rerun mate, a fine piece.

  9. You’re a fine judge of footy talent, Luke.
    Bailey Smith’s stellar finals form has been a revelation.
    Bailey seems like a well-grounded fella and I liked how he paid tribute to his then Dragons coach Jeremy Barnard.
    “Barney” is an East Perth legend and is currently coach of the Mighty Royals.

  10. Great work Luke to get the scoop before he has become a star.
    Maybe a Gary Ayres medal winner this year

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