WHEN the Western Bulldogs desperately needed a spark at half-time of their clash with St Kilda last Saturday it was youngster Bailey Dale who answered coach Luke Beveridge's call.
As per usual this season, the Dogs had plenty of the ball, but weren't able to capitalise on their opportunities and only held a 14-point lead.
Dale, in just his fourth match of the season, got the premiers going in the third quarter with eight possessions and a goal to spearhead the Dogs to a match-winning five-goal lead at the last change.
The 20-year-old's breakout game reaped a career-high 28 possessions, a team-high 411 metres gained, 10 score involvements and the generous praise of his coach.
"I thought Bailey Dale was terrific on the wing,” Beveridge said post-match.
“We're putting faith in him and relying on him to take his game to the next level."
"I thought he was the one in the third quarter that really set us alight with some creative play and setting his teammates up to score.
"So that's a great sign Bailey could do that for us."
After playing just 18 games in two and a half seasons at Whitten Oval, Dale was seconded from the club's VFL team for the enthralling round six clash with Greater Western Sydney to help the Dogs improve their run and ball use.
Dale believes the opportunity gave him the belief he can live up to his coach's lofty expectations.
"The Giants brought the pressure and it was really high-intensity game, and I felt that was one of my better games at this level," Dale told AFL.com.au.
"That gave me a lot of confidence I could play at this level and I've used that in the following weeks.
"Bevo just wants me to crack in and do the things I've been doing in the reserves really well, and that's my run and my kicking.
"High half-forward and wing is where I played most of my footy by using my leg speed and kicking ability to connect inside 50.
"We've been lacking that kicking in the team lately and I feel I'm bringing that to the table, and it's why I'm probably keeping my spot."
The Edithvale-Aspendale product concedes deficiencies in his defensive capabilities were the main reason he spent long periods with Footscray, but he used that time wisely to round out his game.
He says the help of assistant coaches Joel Corey and Daniel Giansiracusa, and adding 10kgs to his once slender frame, have been major factors in his emergence as a player.
"The defensive side of my game has come a long way with the help of Joel Corey and Daniel Giansiracusa," Dale said.
"I started at around 72kgs when I got to the club, but I'm sitting around 82kgs now
"Just having a stronger core has allowed me to stand up in tackles, and if you do that well at AFL level you probably last a long time in the game."
Dale will use the club's bye in round 11 to refresh the body and mind by indulging in his other great passion – golf.
Teammates Clay Smith, Tory Dickson and Lachy Hunter regularly join him for 18 holes, as it allows them to "escape footy" and it's all encompassing nature.
On the home front Dale has recently moved in with fellow third-year Dogs Toby McLean and Declan Hamilton, just a few drop punts from Whitten Oval.
After boarding with former Bulldog Joel Hamling last year, Dale said the trio are great mates despite living and playing in each other's pockets.
"It's a bit of a different crew compared to Joel, as he was very laid-back and Toby and Declan are very different," he said.
"We've formed a pretty strong bond, and there's some good banter in the house, which is good.
"Toby loves cleaning, that's his pride and joy.
"Declan normally does the cooking, and I usually do the dishes."