For as long as anyone in the family can remember, Bailey Banfield wanted to be a footy player. His father Robert was a successful West Kimberley footballer for the Broome Bulls and became his first junior coach.
As a child, he would spend hours kicking a soft footy with his Chinese grandmother, Shirley, and his mother Debbie would kick with him on the family’s driveway.
‘When Bailey was five, someone gave him a life-sized red Sherrin football easter egg, which had all the teams on the back. After that he learnt every team and the ladder. In any round, I could ask him, “What’s the ladder this week, baby?” and he could tell me,’ Debbie recalled.
‘When he was five years old, he told us he wanted to be an AFL football player.’
Bailey’s great-grandfather, Clem Fong, migrated from Canton to Broome in the early 1930s, where he married a local woman, Daisy, herself a child of Chinese parents.
Bailey’s grandmother Shirley was born in Broome in 1937, but his mother Debbie grew up in Perth, where the family entered the Chinese restaurant trade and she worked there whilst studying to be a teacher and eventually moving to Broome.
Bailey is proud of his Chinese heritage: ‘I remember listening to stories from my grandpa and grandma and being amazed at their journey.’
The Banfield family moved to Perth for Bailey’s high school and he made the Western Australian schoolboy teams for the national carnival whilst playing for Claremont Colts in the WAFL.
When the 2016 AFL Draft took place, Bailey was confident of being picked and was disappointed when he was not drafted.
‘Back then the draft was the only pathway to the AFL, so it was all or nothing.’ He recalls.
Bailey had a strong year in 2017 and the teenager won the E.B Cook Medal for Claremont’s Best and Fairest senior player. Despie the accolades he almost missed out being drafted a second time.
‘I missed out on the first AFL Draft then the Rookie Draft, missed out on the second AFL Draft and then got picked up in the Rookie Draft by Fremantle,’ Bailey explains.
‘There were 209 players picked ahead of me in those four drafts. ‘I just squeaked in, so I had all the fuel I needed.’
At the Fremantle Dockers, Bailey ‘trained the house down’ in the 2018 pre-season and was selected to make his AFL debut for Round 1.
By the end of the 2022 season, he had kicked 31 goals for Fremantle across 61 games.
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