Bailey Smith suffers ACL injury as AFL fans left gutted for Western Bulldogs star

It means the 23-year-old may have played his final game for the club.

Bailey Smith.
Bailey Smith is likely to miss the entire 2024 AFL season for the Western Bulldogs. Image: Getty

The Western Bulldogs have confirmed that Bailey Smith has suffered a ruptured ACL in a devastating blow for the young gun. Smith suffered the horror injury at pre-season training on Wednesday and will be hard-pressed to play at all in 2024.

"We can confirm that Bailey Smith has suffered an ACL injury during today's training," the club wrote on social media. "We are devastated by the news and know the whole club will be behind Baz through his rehab journey and beyond."

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Western Bulldogs director of football Chris Grant said in a statement: “We’re all extremely disappointed for Bailey, and empathise with him greatly. The entire club will rally around him during this difficult time, as he begins his rehab journey.”

The 23-year-old was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 Draft and has played 103 games for the Dogs ever since. He struggled with inconsistent form in 2023 and fell out of favour with Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge.

Bailey Smith in action for the Western Bulldogs.
Bailey Smith (second from right) with Western Bulldogs teammates in 2023. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Smith is off contract at the end of 2024 and rumours have been rife that he will look to move clubs. He recently travelled to America with Collingwood gun Nick Daicos, leading Magpies fans to speculate whether the club is looking to snare him.

“Heading off to New York soon so it’ll be good to do a few training sessions over there with Nick Daicos,” he told 7NEWS. “That’ll be super fun. Just doing what I can do without overdoing it mate. Enjoying it.

“I think something where we’ve got a lot of room to grow in AFL is appreciating great players as they come along. I love watching his (Daicos) journey and then to be able to work together over this off-season will be amazing. Hopefully, I can have a year like his next year."

Has Bailey Smith played his last game for Western Bulldogs?

According to leading AFL reporter Jon Ralph, Smith is an "80 per cent chance" to leave the Dogs and become a free agent at the end of 2024. Smith has played down suggestions he wants out, saying he is “very committed” to the club for next season.

“I just want to keep fuelling the fire there," he said previously. "I just want to go all the way, so the red, white and blue is the best place to do it."

Ralph reported that Smith's future at the Bulldogs relies on him improving in 2024. "The onus is on Smith to work his butt off to improve his kicking and on-ball craft so (coach) Luke Beveridge simply has to give him more centre bounce opportunities," he said. “Then he can either stay on a significant deal or explore the market at the end of 2024."

Speaking on the Tradies Podcast, AFL journalists Mitch Cleary and Sam McClure said Collingwood, Essendon and Geelong are leading the race to secure Smith's services. “Geelong would be the most obvious fit," Cleary said. "Their midfield with (Patrick) Dangerfield, (Cam) Guthrie and their age demographic."

Fans expressed their sadness for Smith on social media over the ACL injury. With return to play time around 12 months, he's unlikely to get back on the paddock before coming off contract.

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