It was the pre-season switch that saw forward-turned-defender Bailey Dale claim a maiden All Australian blazer.

An Edithvale-Aspendale junior and Dandenong Stingrays product, Dale was selected with pick number 45 in the 2014 national draft.

He spent the first six rounds of the 2015 season featuring for Footscray, playing predominantly across the wing and half-forward line.

The then 18-year-old was rewarded for some early form with a senior debut in round seven, collecting 12 disposals and a goal.

He played a further nine matches in his first year, but managed just four career games the year after.

Biding his time in the VFL, Dale slotted 20 goals from 17 games to finish runner-up in Footscray’s 2016 goal-kicking award.

He also tasted VFL premiership success with the ‘Scray in 2016, before enjoying a breakout year in attack in 2019.

Contributing 20 goals in six matches towards the back-end of the 2019 season, Dale once again found himself in and out of the team during the COVID-interrupted 2020.

Swung into the backline for the final quarter of practice match against Hawthorn earlier this year, the 25-year-old immediately impressed.

In his new role across the half-back line, Dale’s best output came against St Kilda in round 10, where he registered a career-high 34 disposals, to go with four rebound 50s and two goals.

Having not missed a match this year, he averaged 24 touches and 526 metres gained to rank in Champion Data’s elite category, while winning a second Tony Liberatore Most Improved award at the 2021 Club Champion formalities.