SINCE living in their hub on the Gold Coast, the Western Bulldogs have been giving their players a choice on game day.

They can take the early bus to the ground with staff and get ready well ahead of the first bounce, or they can go a little bit later and do most of their preparation at the hotel.

THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?

There's two players who have been regularly taking up the first option: captain Marcus Bontempelli and his midfield protégé Bailey Smith, who is enjoying a brilliant second season at AFL level and emerging as a star of the competition.

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Smith has never been one to leave things to chance. It's one reason why the AFL world is enamoured with the 19-year-old, who has played all 36 of the Dogs' games since he arrived at the end of 2018 as the No.7 draft pick.

Following teammates Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley, Jackson Macrae and Tom Liberatore over summer has been the impetus for his breakout year.

"The work over pre-season and confidence in myself and my own belief just seeing blokes I train with do it, so it's like 'Why can't I follow in their footsteps?'," Smith told this week.

"They've inspired me to be like, 'Why not? Why not have a big crack and try to reap the same sort of rewards that they get?'

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"[It's] that rushed patience; understanding it will take time to become the player you want to become, but trying to force it every day and expedite that process."

As much as life on the road has been jam-packed as the AFL tries to cram in its COVID-19 season, it has also allowed Smith to slow down.

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Every day at the resort where the Bulldogs are staying starts for Smith with a strong skinny latte (or almond milk latte, depending on the day), and in between training he can be found on the golf course or poolside.

"It's been really good for me. I've been able to switch off and relax a lot more," he said.

On the field, Smith's progression has been urgent. He entered the round second at the Bulldogs (behind Macrae) and 19th in the AFL for total disposals, and could be in the mix to be in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian squad.

Through focusing on the present, that future will take care of itself

- Bailey Smith

After an impressive debut season, Smith wanted to step things up a notch.

DOGS' STRANGE RUCK CALL It could 'stifle' his development

"I'm happy I can see growth from last year to this year. Having a lot more midfield time has been really good for my confidence and settling in there has been really fun," he said.

Smith has been known for going the extra mile. Before he was drafted, he would plan and cook all of his meals, ensuring his daily food intake was spot-on. Every night, he would jump into his family pool for recovery, and every morning after a game he would head to the beach for the same reason.

Mitch Wallis and Bailey Smith after the Dogs' strong R13 win over Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

During the COVID-19 shutdown period he also set himself up for when games restarted, building a chin-up bar at home and even one day setting up a makeshift gym at the local park with teammate Laitham Vandermeer.

Smith has followed through on his preparation. Taking out the round six clash when he suffered an early head knock, he has averaged 23 disposals this season, including a 37-disposal and 10 inside-50 entries game against Adelaide two weeks ago.

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Last round, in an important win over Melbourne as the Dogs hunt down a finals spot, Smith gathered 26 touches and a goal. With performance comes praise, and with Smith there has been plenty of fanfare this year.

"I just take it in my stride. I try not to listen to it but obviously you're aware of it," he said.

"Everyone has their own ideal player in their head they want to become. Having that in mind you focus each week on trying to bring it out.

"You never know what percentage you are there, but it's about trying to find new levels each week that you can reach ... and a new benchmark every game. That transforms where your future's going to go. Through focusing on the present, that future will take care of itself."

There's more to being Smith than just the hard ball gets, clean hands, burst from a pack and damaging run.

He is known as 'Baz' to teammates – a homage to his Instagram profile Bazlenka, which has nearly 130,000 followers – but has recently picked up a few more nicknames.

"They call me either Joe Exotic (from Netflix series Tiger King) and Jackson Trengove calls me 'Mr Instagram' half the time in the warm-up at training," Smith said.

"Barry is a new one. I get Barry a lot. That started earlier in the year and that's probably the most frequent one as a version of 'Barry Lenka'. I think Billy Gowers and 'Libba' called me that."

He is known at the Dogs for his fashion style, recycling vintage finds and sometimes taking on some of Liberatore's hand-me-downs, while he pierced his ear during the isolation and now wears a ring as well as a silver chain around his neck.

Then there's his flowing – and growing – mullet which has become synonymous with the Dogs' 2020 campaign. Watching games back, Smith has noticed his subconscious habit of touching his hair while at stoppages.

"I don't realise I'm doing it. I watch myself back and it looks shocking just playing with it all the time, but I can't help it. It's a bit of a shambles, the hair, but I don't know what to do with it to be honest," he said.

"It's not getting a hub chop. I trimmed the top and shaved the sides but I haven't touched the back. I cut my own hair."

Smith has his individual flair, but is committed to the Dogs achieving team success. He says last year's fiery elimination loss to Greater Western Sydney still sits in the mind of the club.

He is one of a group of young Dogs, alongside Aaron Naughton, Ed Richards, Tim English and Patrick Lipinski, keen to share in the success they saw at the club only four years ago.

 "Being a young group is really special because we're trying to foster something towards that greatness and winning a premiership," Smith said.

"When you've got lots of like-minded individuals like we do now, it's something really special trying to achieve that success of 2016, and doing it in our own new way is something very exciting."