Submitted by Peter Blucher.
Bailey Scott is going to have an extraordinary story to tell his kids one day.
After all, how many young kids get a chance to pick their own club. Win a Rising Star nomination on debut? And despite linking with a Melbourne-based club spend a huge chunk of their early career living under strict Covid protocols interstate and playing two-thirds of his early games out of Victoria.
In a career of just 28 games he’s played on every day of the week except Tuesday, he’s played in the five mainland states plus Tasmania but more often in Queensland (12) than Victoria (10), and crowds have been more the exception than the norm as all but four of his games have been under varying Covid restrictions.
But regardless of where his future takes him, Scott will always cherish Round 17 2021. Or last Monday night, when North Melbourne beat West Coast in Perth in front of a crowd of 30,515 in which the North players and officials almost outnumbered the North supporters.
It was Scott’s first win in almost 12 months, just the third win of his career, and the best. Easily.
North, sitting at the bottom of the AFL ladder, flew to Perth to take on a West Coast side that had been among the pre-season premiership fancies only to find themselves under massive pressure after a string of insipid performances.
Down by eight points at halftime, North kicked the only three goals of the third quarter to skip 11 points clear at the last change only to the first four goals of the final term in seven minutes.
It was over said the experts. Another brave effort from North but West Coast were too classy.
But it wasn’t. North kicked the next three to reclaim the lead, and after Liam Ryan pegged one back for the home side a Todd Goldstein goal got North home by 10.
Emotions among the North crew spewed over. It was very special, as any win by an east coast club is in Perth. Especially for a young man who had gone 17 losses and a draw in his previous 18 games. Only a draw against GWS in Round 13 this year had given him any respite.
That the breakthrough win came three days after his 21st birthday made it an extra big week.
Scott had 16 possessions and was a very good contributor in a Kangaroos side that has made massive strides under first-year coach David Noble, and after going eight games without a win to start the season are now only half a game behind 17th-placed Hawthorn and every chance of escaping the wooden-spoon.
When Scott began his career in Round 1 2019, picking up a Rising Star nomination for 21 possessions and two goals on debut against Fremantle, things were as normal as he could have hoped for. Likewise, when he played Rounds 2-3-5.
But since then it’s been anything but normal. He had to wait 14 months and a Covid-enforced competition shutdown for his fifth game and since then has walked a path like few young Queenslanders before him.
His wins have come over Adelaide at his coodabeen homeground of the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium, over GWS in western Sydney, and West Coast in Perth, with his draw against GWS in Hobart.
He is 0-10 in games at Marvel Stadium, the MCG and Kardinia Park in Geelong.
It’s just not what a highly-rated young prospect would have expected when he fulfilled a lifetime dream to follow his father Robert, a 245-game player at Geelong and North Melbourne, into the AFL as selection #49 in the 2018 AFL Draft.
Born in Geelong three months after his father’s last AFL game, Scott could have gone to Geelong or North Melbourne via the father/son rules. Or he could have gone to the Gold Coast Suns as an Academy product after he moved to Queensland with his family at nine to play his junior football at Broadbeach.
He’d joined the Suns Academy at 12, had skippered the Academy and the Allies Under 18 side in his draft year, and won a spot at half forward in a 2018 All-Australian side captained by Sam Walsh which included fellow Queenslander Connor McFadyen, named in the Lions emergencies for the first time this week, Jack Lukosius, Izaak Rankine, Isaac Quaynor, Bailey Smith, Ben King, Rhylee West, Jacob Koschitzke, Jordan Clark and Chayce Jones
After an exhaustive process he chose North, where Robert Scott played in a premiership side in 1996 before heading to Queensland and playing in Mt.Gravatt’s 2002 QAFL premiership side under Danny Craven.
Ironically, the Vultures wore the same blue and white vertical stripes as the Roos, where Scott Jnr has picked up the #8 jumper worn by Scott Snr throughout his 113 games at North, and all but 14 of his 132 games at Geelong after he played his first year in #50 and his second year in #45.
While the uncertainty of Covid times will ensure that Scott and the Roos don’t look too far ahead the young utility player will be looking forward to the Round 21 clash with Sydney. They are the only opposition club he is yet to play.
Scott was a standout Queensland figure in Round 17, when the two Queensland clubs suffered vastly contrasting results. While Brisbane lost badly to St.Kilda at Carrara in Dayne Zorko’s 200th game and lost the high-flying Eric Hipwood for up to 12 months with a knee injury, Gold Coast had one of their best wins over GWS in Ballarat.
Zorko, with 16 possessions and two goals, was the only Queenslander to figure in the votes for the AFL Coach’s Association Player of the Year Award. He picked up four votes as the only Lion in the votes.
Jack Bowes (26 possessions) and Alex Sexton (16 possessions & 2 goals) were good contributors for the Suns, who booted the last two goals of the game to scrape home.
Josh Thomas continued a mini form spoke under caretaker coach Robert Harvey in Collingwood’s come-from-behind win over Richmond, grabbing a season-high 19 possessions and an equal season-high two goals. He’s had 50 possessions and kicked five goals in three games under Harvey.
Tom Hickey had 17 possessions and a season-high 36 hit-outs in Sydney’s nine-point win over the fancied Western Bulldogs at Docklands to put themselves right in the frame for a return to the finals.
Peter Blucher is a Consultant with Vivid Sport.