THERE should be no argument for who is the best second-year player in the competition.
It's the Western Bulldogs' mullet-wearing cult hero midfielder Bailey Smith.
Legendary commentator Bruce McAvaney, who has a fair right to make these sorts of calls based on his 44-year sports media career, believes the mantle belongs to Smith and so should the rest of the football world.
"I'm not sure there is a better second-year player in the competition right now," McAvaney told Channel Seven during Thursday night's Bulldogs-Sydney match.
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Smith, a former pick seven, was part of the 2018 draft class which included Carlton's Rising Star winner Sam Walsh, Port Adelaide's Connor Rozee and Richmond's Sydney Stack.
Walsh was a clear standout in a impressively consistent first year since being taken at number one while Rozee (pick five) and Stack (pre-season supplemental signing) were more impactful than Smith was in their first year at AFL level.
But now with a full season and one final under his belt the player, affectionately known as 'Bazlenka' across the competition, has taken his game to the next level.
In a unusual 2020 AFL season what the 19-year-old midfielder is doing now alongside the likes of captain Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley won't be unusual in years to come.
The former Sandringham Dragon is averaging 22 disposals a game at 75 per cent efficiency in shortened game time compared to his 17 and 76 per cent efficiency in 2019.
Most of his possessions are on the outside and he is showing just how much he can burn opponents once in open space.
He is good by both hand and foot, rarely misses a target and if he does he is sprints over to make an impact to try and win the ball back.
The Xavier College graduate also possesses power and poise in and around the contest.
He showed an example of this last Thursday night when he shrugged of a tackle from Sydney Swans captain Dane Rampe and fired a handball away to a teammate, starting a Bulldogs' scoring chain.
Essendon champion Jobe Watson summed up perfectly on Channel Seven on Thursday what Smith is showing in just his second season.
"He just offers such great breakaway speed and we knew he was a real power athlete and his ability to repeat efforts and cover the ground," he said.
"He's just another player that offers great depth to this Bulldogs' midfield and it's hard to believe he is only in his second year, the influence he has having on games.
"We all knew how diligent he was and how great a preparator he was before games ... even as an 18-year-old.
"As a young player he is really setting the tone."
The emerging Bulldogs midfield bull, who was named the Chris Grant Best First Year Player in 2019, is setting the tone for the three players who finished ahead of him in last year's Rising Star.
Walsh is averaging 18.5 disposals at 58 per cent efficiency compared to a staggering 25 in his debut year.
Rozee has been serviceable with his score involvements up on last year's average but he only has two goals to his name as he spends more time up the ground.
Stack's input is also down on his impressive first season but is finding himself more in defence than up forward.
If the opening four rounds of the 2020 season and all of his games in 2019 are anything to go by then Smith's career is developing into a delightful show to watch.
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