Bailey Smith is back! Western Bulldogs star makes AFL return after drugs controversy – as Luke Beveridge’s side run riot against St Kilda to boost top eight chances
- Bailey Smith made his AFL return on Friday after serving a four-week ban
- The 21-year-old missed out due to headbutting and illicit drugs suspensions
- Smith was pictured with a bag of white powder during the AFL off season
- He settled straight back in and helped his side to a 52-16 half time lead
Bailey Smith has made his AFL return as the Western Bulldogs star helped his side to a healthy half time lead against St Kilda on Friday night.
Smith, 21, has been sidelined for weeks as a result of separate suspensions for a headbutt and illicit drug use – the latter incident occurring during the off-season with the midfielder citing mental health issues after losing the grand final.
Luke Beveridge’s side have fallen out of the top eight during Smith’s suspensions, with his return coming as a major boost for their final dash to the finish line.
Bailey Smith made his AFL return on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs took on St Kilda
And the youngster was on hand to help his side out at Marvel Stadium, with the Doggies taking a 52-16 lead at half time.
Despite a fourth quarter rally, the Saints were unable to overcome their huge deficit as their finals hopes suffered a near fatal blow.
The Bulldogs were never headed at Marvel Stadium on Friday night, slamming through the first seven goals to lead by 36 points at halftime.
St Kilda chipped away at a 50-point three-quarter time deficit late but the damage had already been done as the Bulldogs secured a 13.6 (84) to 7.14 (56) victory.
The Bulldogs (9-8) snapped a two-game losing run to reignite their own top-eight hopes and leapfrog St Kilda on percentage into ninth on the ladder.
In a major boost for last year’s beaten grand finalists, Bontempelli reclaimed his status as one of the AFL’s elite players after struggling with injury for much of the season.
The Bulldogs captain and fellow premiership star Tom Liberatore ran riot to set the game up in the midfield as they dominated St Kilda in clearances 21-10 in during first half.
The 21-year-old missed four weeks of action, in which time the Doggies fell out of the top eight
Smith was pictured with a bag containing a white substance during the AFL off-season
Bontempelli, Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith, returning from his headbutting suspension and drugs ban, collected 71 possessions between them by the main break.
After the Saints got back to within 22 points, Bontempelli snuffed out the minuscule chance of a historic comeback by nailing his second goal to finish with a damaging 34 possessions.
Key forward Josh Bruce, who was playing his first AFL game in almost a year, was quiet but will take time to find form coming back from an ACL injury.
The Bulldogs withstood a late rally to secure a much-needed victory at Marvel Stadium
Marcus Bontempelli was awarded the Barker-Whitten trophy for his standout performance
No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had one of the best games of his fledgling career, booting three goals in the absence of star forward Aaron Naughton (health and safety protocols).
After sitting inside the top-four when they were 8-3, St Kilda have since lost five of their last six games with a difficult draw to end the season.
Adding to their pain was veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder suffering an Achilles injury in the third quarter and was subbed out for Ben Long.
The Saints added some respectability to the score during an improved effort in the final quarter but it will not be enough to escape scrutiny for one of the most listless performances by any AFL team this season.