Dermott Brereton has given Bailey Smith plenty of food for thought after pointing out the hypocrisy between his off-field message about mental health and his determination to humiliate opponents on it.
Like many former greats, Brereton doesn’t like the lack of respect that has crept in to the game in recent decades now that players know they can get in their opponent’s face without fear of copping a whack in return.
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The five-time premiership player has labelled Smith, the 20-year-old Western Bulldogs midfielder, as the “poster boy” for taunting opponents.
“There’s a belittlement element to this and I hate it in our sport,” Brereton told SEN.
“Every team has one but the poster boy for this at the moment, and I adore the way this boy plays and I just want him to stop, is Bailey Smith.”
Brereton highlighted two moments from the past fortnight where he believes Smith overstepped the mark.
The low acts Dermie hated
Bailey Smith steps over Brad Sheppard after kicking a goal.Source:FOX SPORTS
The first was against the Eagles in round two when Smith got on the end of a chain of handballs during the second quarter and dribbled a goal past diving West Coast defender Brad Sheppard.
After putting his team in front, Smith turned and stepped over Sheppard, who was laying flat on his stomach on the ground. It’s a move made famous by NBA player Allen Iverson and seen as an incredible sign of disrespect to your opponent.
“(Sheppard) dived head long to try and stop his snap,” Brereton said. “Bailey snaps it and goes out of his way to retrace his steps to step over the Eagles player that is still lying on the ground. That was determined to be a humiliation of the vanquished.”
The second came on Good Friday, in the Dogs’ 128-point drubbing of North Melbourne.
Late in the final quarter Kangaroos skipper Jack Ziebell attempted to help teammate Ben McKay by dropping back in the hole in front of Josh Bruce, but the Dogs spearhead worked him under the ball and took a contested mark that would lead to his 10th goal.
Smith was several metres away from the contest but ran to Ziebell and shoved him in the chest, prompting the veteran midfielder to point at him in disgust.
The disrespect sparked a bit of push-and-shove as Bruce slotted the major and Smith ended up with a ripped guernsey.
Brereton said Smith’s actions were “counter-productive” after he’d given an interview ahead of the season revealing his battle with mental health.
Smith shoves Jack Ziebell after the North skipper is outmarked by Josh Bruce.Source:FOX SPORTS
“He (Jack Ziebell) has been a really good citizen in our sport,” Brereton said.
“When he gets beaten by Josh Bruce who’s on fire and Bailey comes in and gives him a double fist to the chest and makes out as though, ‘We did that to you, cop that’ and I’m thinking, ‘Mate, you’re the bloke who’s actually put it on the ledger. I’ve had some mental issues this year, go easy on me, go easy on people with mental health issues’.
“You can’t ask for points to be banked up if you’re going to behave like this. It’s just counter-productive to what you’re asking for.”
Smith’s battle with mental health
In a pre-season interview, Smith urged the AFL industry to further discuss the issue of mental health.
“We’ve all got demons, we’ve all got things that make us anxious or struggle, and I’ve got my own mental health stuff that I deal with,” he told AFL.com.au.
“I’m sure lots of people do, but it’s just not spoken about as much as I’d like it, and I know we are getting better as a society and as footballers, talking about it, but we can be seen as easy going, living the dream, loving it.
“It can be the truth, it can be the story but you can never judge a book by its cover. There’s always a lot going on. I’m an over-thinker, always have been.”
During his draft year, AFL clubs were aware of the Xavier College and Sandringham Dragons product’s battles away from the game, with Smith suggesting it is a healthy conversation to have as a player.
“It stems from growing up through school, and footy and stuff. I haven’t been too open about it but I probably need to address it a bit more if it comes up in conversation,” he said of his over-thinking and constant battles.
“I think it’s healthy to talk about it, and understand that everyone doesn’t always cope as well as they would like, and it’s OK to put your hand up and say you’re struggling.
“The club is really good, very open with that sort of stuff, and lots of my teammates know I struggle at times. People knew I had mental health issues before I got drafted, which is something which is OK and I take in my stride. It makes me a lot better and makes me who I am.”
Bailey Smith has become a fan favourite with the Bulldogs. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Smith outlined one moment where it hit him as a first-year player, with Dogs veteran Dale Morris helping the youngster out.
“There was actually a time where he looked after me – I broke down at the club, everyone had left one night, and I was just struggling, this was in my first year, when it all gets too much for you,” Smith said.
“Everyone had left. And he walked into the changerooms and gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m here for you’.”
— with foxsports.com.au
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