WESTERN Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith has made a statement on day one of pre-season training, leading the field home in the 2km time-trial at the Whitten Oval on Monday.
The 22-year-old has just returned to Melbourne after completing a training trip with business partner, Collingwood star Nick Daicos, in New York through the pair's sponsor, Monster Energy.
Smith was first past the post on a wet start to the pre-season, holding off first-round draft pick Ryley Sanders by at least 20 metres, with draftee Joel Freijah finishing in third spot after making a fast start.
With his current deal up at the end of next season and rivals pitching for his services behind the scenes, Smith's contract status looms as a huge talking point in 2024. But the Victorian couldn't have presented in better condition on Monday.
The Bulldogs were put through the 2km time-trial under the watch of new head of physical performance Daniel Duvnjak-Zaknich after previous fitness boss Matthew Innes departed for West Coast during the off-season.
Sanders arrived at the Whitten Oval last week via pick No.6 in the 2023 AFL Draft – before the club secured father-son recruit Jordan Croft at No.15 – following a brilliant season where the Tasmanian won the Larke Medal and was named captain in the All-Australian side after leading the Allies to victory in the under-18 national championships.
Lachlan Bramble was also on the track for the first time in red, white and blue after securing a lifeline with the Bulldogs via the pre-season supplemental selection period after being delisted by Hawthorn following 30 games across three seasons at Waverley Park.
Former Melbourne midfielder James Harmes also stepped out for the first time after moving clubs during October's trade period, while Nick Coffield was also on the track after starting last week with the Dogs' first to fourth-year players following his move from St Kilda.
Captain Marcus Bontempelli didn't train on Monday and will follow a modified start to his pre-season program after undergoing ankle surgery at the start of November to address lingering soreness.
After navigating an interrupted pre-season last year, Adam Treloar begun the pre-season with the main group after minor off-season ankle surgery.
The football department at the Dogs has undergone a major reset across the pre-season, with Matt Egan joining the club as coaching and performance manager to support Luke Beveridge, Daniel Pratt arriving as backline coach, Jarryn Geary as development and player leadership coach and Alex Johnson as a development coach.