Dream Season Sees Banfield Back in Draft Frame



It takes someone with great character to respond after a bitter disappointment.

Bailey Banfield’s story is proof that if you work hard enough, you will get your due rewards.

It is also a lesson about never giving up.

Footy Prophet spoke to Banfield at the end of last season, and like any prospective draftee, the Claremont youngster had hopes of being selected in the National draft.

While his name was not called out on that occasion, there was the distinct possibility of getting selected in the Rookie draft a few days later.

However that was not to be the case.

To a great surprise of many top draft observers, Banfield’s name was passed over once again, meaning that he had to return to the Tigers and reassess his game.

It would be natural for a young player in that position to drop their head, make excuses, and look to blame others for missing out, however that was not Banfield’s style.

“After the rookie draft, I had training later that night so I had to get straight back into it and it wasn’t an option to sit and mope around.”

While undoubtedly a setback, Banfield was eternally grateful for the support he received from the Tigers and his family.

” It was massively important just to have my family around as it kept me grounded and kept me going.

“Claremont gave me a lot of confidence saying I was good enough and could make it at the next level.

“The coaches in Darren Harris, Kepler Bradley and Andrew Embley gave me a lot of confidence to play my game from the pre season and into the season proper as well,” Banfield said.

After being made aware of areas he needed to fix, Banfield duly set out in improving his overall game which included his kicking and decision making in the contest.

The midfielder set himself a fresh task for 2017, and that was winning a spot in the Tigers starting lineup.

True to the character of the youngster, he relished the challenge.

“I knew that it was going to be pretty tough as we had a fair few names going through the midfield, so I wasn’t sure if I would find a spot in the midfield or play across half back.

“So I would just train as hard as I could and when it came to the pre season games, it was all about putting the best foot forward.

“The coaches rewarded me and I was able to break into the midfield in Round 1, which I was pretty excited about,” Banfield said.

The youngster who played two senior games at the tail end of 2016, admitted the early stages of this season were quite daunting, but he had a strong on-field support network to help guide him through.

“Round 1 was pretty tough, the first game is a bit of a blow-up, pretty tough physically and I didn’t play as well as I would like.

“Jake Murphy was a massive help to me early on and gave me a lot of confidence to play my own game and it was good enough to succeed, and Ryan Lim who is just a few years older than me (21yo), really helped me cement my spot and get an idea of what it will take to hold my spot as well.”

In round three I had a bit of a breakout game, and played well against Perth (27 possessions, seven inside 50s), and it was at that moment that I was able to realise that I could play some really good footy at this level.

In terms of a football education, the 19 year-old had one you could only dream of in the 2017 season.

He was given a role to run with some of the midfield guns of the WAFL competition including silky South Fremantle star Tim Kelly, Subiaco lynchpins Chris Phelan and Kyle Horsley and AFL listed players Dom Sheed (West Coast/East Perth) and Cam Sutcliffe (Fremantle/Peel Thunder).

While admitting all posed varying challenges, two players stood out in the mind of Banfield.

“Kelly was up there as one of the top players to play against, always moving around stoppages, pretty quick and strong and if you give him half a metre he is pretty much gone.

“Kyle Horsley is pretty hard to play on as he is just so smart with where he runs and how he uses the footy.”

While team success eluded the Tigers in 2017 as they missed the finals and finished seventh (8-12), for Banfield it was a season to remember.

The well built youngster took out the Tigers 2017 best and fairest, a remarkable feat in his first full season of senior football.

Banfield played all 20 games in 2017, averaging 24 possessions, six tackles, and four marks a game.

Understandably, he is still trying to get his head around the scale of his achievement.

“I was there on the night and got more and more nervous as they went round by round but It was just really special to be recognised by the coaches.

“It is still a bit of a shock to be honest, but it is bloody awesome,” he said.

The experience of 12 months ago means Banfield along with his close friend and Tigers teammate Matt Guelfi, are in the somewhat privileged position to know what to expect when draft day comes around in under two weeks.

“I will pretty much sit tight and wait and see, try not to get my hopes up too high or get too down in the dumps and just remain pretty neutral.

” If it happens that would be awesome, but if it doesn’t it will be pretty cool to be back at Claremont next year, I’m just not sure what way it is going to go at the moment.

Looking at his WA U18 contemporaries like Sam Powell-Pepper and Sam Petrevski Seton shine on the big stage has whetted Banfield’s appetite for what may lie ahead.

“Those two along with guys like Zac Fisher(Carlton), it was pretty awesome to see them go really well and makes you really want to get an opportunity yourself.

The second year Economics and Finance student at UWA has plenty to preoccupy himself before the draft with exams just around the corner.

Banfield also involves himself in his local community coaching Tennis in the summer months, and at the Swanbourne junior footy club in the winter.

While Banfield’s football journey took an unplanned detour, he now sees a lot of positives over what occurred.

“I have learnt a lot of lessons playing against some of the best players in the comp, and it gives me the kind of confidence that I can be the best player I can be.

“I now have the confidence that I can play at this level,” he said.

Whether he gets selected this year or not, Banfield has set a fine example for other young players who face a similar predicament in the years ahead.

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