CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses mental health issues.

AFL star Bailey Smith has released a statement after pics emerged of him with an “illicit substance”. His footy team The Western Bulldogs are investigating the incident but have also released a statement in support of Smith.

The pics in question show Bailey Smith with an unidentified bag of “white powder”, per The Guardian.

Initially the Western Bulldogs said it was investigating how legit the pictures are. It’s now released an updated statement about the whole affair.

Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains said the team was “extremely disappointed” about the images of Smith. But he also said the incident happened after the 2021 season, so all players were on personal leave at the time.

“We absolutely do not condone our players being involved with illicit substances and firmly believe players are well-educated on what constitutes appropriate behaviour,” Bains said.

The statement then touched on Bailey Smith’s struggles with his mental health, something the 21-year-old has spoken about really openly. He ended up taking some leave from The Western Bulldogs late last year for personal reasons.

Bailey is a young man who has faced many challenges and pressures off the field in recent times which he has spoken of extensively,” The Western Bulldogs’ statement said.

“He endured a particularly difficult time towards the end of last year that ultimately led to time away from football.

“While this clearly does not excuse his behaviour, it is our responsibility as a Club to ensure we have supported, and we continue to support, Bailey’s health and wellbeing.

“We are encouraged that this year Bailey has successfully put steps in place to ensure he can manage his mental health and be strong in his decision-making, while being able to perform to the best of his ability on the field.”

Ultimately, the club said it would continue to support Smith. The picture incident is still being investigated both by the club and the AFL’s Integrity Unit.

During his statement Bailey Smith described himself as a “work-in-progress” and talked about confronting the incident head-on.

“I have recently been made aware of the presence of social media content that shows me with an illicit substance,” he said.

In confronting this, the temptation is to speak in vague generalities and avoid the issue.  However, I am determined to learn the lessons of my past and be a better person in the future.”

He then described himself “indulging in behaviours” during late 2021 which he is “deeply ashamed” of.

“I do not have an excuse for those behaviours, however the state of my mental health over that period post Grand Final dramatically deteriorated, and I spiralled out of control leading to poor decision making and actions at the time. All of this resulting in the leave I took from football at the commencement of pre-season training late last year,” he explained.

“The depth of my emotions over that period, coupled with some of my behaviours, have reminded me that, as a person, I am still very much a work-in-progress.

“I know I have obligations beyond myself, not just contractually – but in terms of the example I set through the decisions I make, and I will be better.” 

Bailey Smith said he was “very aware” of the fact he “made mistakes”.

“I unreservedly apologise to my family, my teammates, my club and its sponsors, the AFL, my supporters and my sponsors,” he said.

“I have made mistakes, but I resolve to learn from each and to do all I can to avoid letting myself down, and those around me.”

Smith also received support for his statement from the AFL Players Association [AFLPA] CEO Paul Marsh.

Marsh said in a statement that while Smith did make a mistake, he had “owned” it. 

“Importantly [he] has owned that mistake and, even more importantly, has put steps in place to learn from it and grow as a person as a result of it,” Marsh said.

“The AFL environment is high pressure and high profile, and Bailey has previously shared his battles with mental health”.

Marsh highlighted the importance of supporting and educating players instead of condemning or shaming them.

“The AFLPA will support Bailey through this time and we are confident the Western Bulldogs will do likewise,” he said.

If you need mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

Image: Getty Images / Quinn Rooney / Staff