By Peter Blucher
If Bailey Scott had kept a diary of his AFL career and used green pages for good days and red pages for bad days, he’d have a very red record of one of the AFL’s toughest apprenticeships.
But last Saturday the Gold Coast Suns Academy product turned North Melbourne father/son draftee would have found himself in a real quandary. Red or Green?
It was both. Another loss, this time in the most infuriating fashion, but his best individual performance.
Playing his 65th game against Sydney at Marvel Stadium, Scott had a career-best 33 possessions – his first 30-possession game – and a career-best seven clearances. He was arguably the Roos’ best player.
He polled a career-best seven votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award, behind only Sydney co-captain Luke Parker, who received the maximum 10 votes.
It was only the third time in his five years in the AFL Scott has featured in the coaches votes after he polled one vote against St.Kilda in 2021 and one vote against Richmond in 2022.
Yet in an environment where it is all about team, the 22-year-old had to accept that it was another loss – another damn loss – after he was seconds away from what would have been his best win.
Indeed, Scott could be excused for thinking “what next?” after the Roos suffered one of the more bizarre losses in AFL history at the end of one of the more bizarre weeks of his career.
Fifteen points down midway through the third quarter, the Roos, with Scott playing a pivotal role, had dragged themselves back into the contest and were 16 points up 10 minutes into the last quarter only to be beaten by an interchange infraction.
If it wasn’t so brutal it would have been almost laughable as two North players came off the ground at the same time inside the last minute – one for a scheduled interchange and one because he was suffering from cramp – and both were replaced.
It tipped the Roos over the limit of 75 interchanges, prompting the umpires to award a Sydney free kick and a 50m penalty. And because at the time the play was in the Sydney forward line, Sydney Ruckman Hayden McLean was gifted a match-winning shot from the goal square.
The Swans won by three points and what could so easily have been a real highlight in the fledgling Scott career was just another kick in the guts.
In 65 games Scott has lost by more than 50 points no less than 20 times – six times by more than 75 points and twice by 100-plus. There was a 12-game losing streak last year in which North lost by 108-11-68-60-50-78-69-47-53-62-49-57.
His average losing margin is 43.8 points, and his 8-1-56 record could easily be even worse given three of his wins were by less than a goal.
Amazingly, Scott has played under six different coaches, and three time has found himself under a caretaker coach after his primary coach quit, was sacked or took leave of absence mid-season.
It reads like a soap opera for the former Broadbeach junior, who chose to join North Melbourne as a father/son draftee via the 2018 AFL National Draft in preference to Geelong, another father/son option, or the Suns, who offered priority access under Academy rules.
Having debuted under Brad Scott in Round 1 2019, Bailey Scott’s coaching list reads Scott into Rhyce Shaw after Shaw was a mid-season replacement for Scott when he stood down. Then David Noble into Leigh Adams after Adams was a mid-season replacement for Noble when Noble was sacked. And finally, Alastair Clarkson into Brett Ratten when Ratten stood in on Saturday for Clarkson after Clarkson stepped away from the game for personal reasons.
He’s only beaten West Coast (three times), Adelaide, Fremantle, Richard, Carlton and GWS, which means he’s never beaten the other 11 teams.
Still, in a softener to the heart-breaking loss on Saturday, Scott won lavish praise across the AFL media on Saturday with Gerard Healy, former Swans Brownlow Medallist and one of the most respected voices in the football media, especially strong.
“That’s the best game I’ve seen him (Scott) play … he looks a really good player,” Healy said.
It was a small triumph for Ratten, the former Carlton and St. Kilda coach who stepped in to deputise for good mate Clarkson after Clarkson, caught up in the Hawthorn racism scandal, took leave of absence from his coaching duties.
Ratten threw Scott into the midfield after he had played primarily on the wing and at half back and was rewarded with a fine performance in an under-strength North side.
In other Queensland highlights in Round 10 of the AFL season, Will Ashcroft had 30 possessions – his second 30-possession game – to go with a goal and six clearances to play a driving role in the Brisbane Lions win over the Gold Coast Suns in Q-Clash #24 at the Gabba which earned him five coach’s votes.
Among seven Queenslanders in the Brisbane side, Keidean Coleman had 13 possessions in his 50th game before succumbing to an injury in the closing minutes which sees him in doubt for this week’s game against Adelaide in Adelaide, and Harris Andrews and Jack Payne continued their exhilarating season in defence with 14 and 15 possessions respectively.
Elliot Himmelberg played his third game of the season and his first since Round 2 for the Crows against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat, when Ben Keays played his 100th AFL game. Sadly, for both, it finished with a 45-point Crows loss as Himmelberg had five possessions and nine hit-outs, and Keays 11 possessions.
Samson Ryan continued his big-stage apprenticeship, playing his 10th game for Richmond against Essendon in the Dream Time at the G game in front of 78,300. It was another one he’ll never forget as he picked up 10 possessions and a goal in a one-point loss in what turned out to be the 307th and last game for Damien Hardwick as Richmond coach.