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Tomorrow's Heroes: Smith

Bailey Smith's ascent up the draft board started in round one of this season, when he gathered 37 disposals (22 were contested), 12 clearances and eight inside-50s for the Sandringham Dragons.

In driving rain at Frankston Oval, Smith was the standout player, dominating the contest and leading his side to a win.

Smith didn't look back from there, going on to win All Australian honours at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships after impressing for Vic Metro and becoming one of the leading prospects in the pool.

An Achilles injury which worsened after the carnival prematurely ended Smith's season, saw him miss the last 10 weeks of the year and sit out testing at the NAB AFL Draft Combine. However, his work by then was done and he will be one of the first names read out next Thursday night at Marvel Stadium.

Smith is a very good mix of midfield qualities. He's strong and powerful and a good size (185cm, 83kg).

He's tough and competitive and likes doing the hard work (he averaged 11 contested disposals and five clearances at the championships), but he also has the pace and explosive streak to get out of congestion and into space. His endurance is also at the top end, having won the 2km time trial on the NAB AFL Academy's trip to Florida earlier this year.

Smith's performances are no fluke. He is the most dedicated player in this year's pool, having eyed off an AFL career since his early teenage years. His diet, mid-week preparation, off-season training schedules and mentors are all geared to playing at the top level, so the club that chooses him knows he will not leave anything to chance.

Some clubs still feel that despite Smith's impressive season in the midfield, that he's best suited as a half-back, where he played as a bottom-ager last year for the Dragons. That's not so much a query as something that could change where he gets drafted if clubs with early picks don't view him as an out-and-out midfielder yet.

With his pace and power mix, Smith has been compared to West Coast premiership star Luke Shuey. He is able to bust out of a stoppage and then burst away in a couple of quick steps, a move that Shuey has made his own throughout his Eagles career. 

Smith is set to be an early selection next week. St Kilda, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs are all clubs linked to him with top-10 selections.

If you were building a midfielder for the modern game Smith would tick most of what you're after. A competitor who is quick, composed and committed. He's ready to go.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs