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Smith, Gardner earn new deals

The Western Bulldogs have re-signed Roarke Smith and Ryan Gardner as rookie-listed players for 2020.

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The Western Bulldogs have re-signed Roarke Smith and Ryan Gardner as rookie-listed players for 2020.

Smith, 23, played five AFL games in 2019 to take his career tally to 17.

The utility joined the Bulldogs with pick five in the 2014 NAB AFL Rookie Draft, making his AFL debut in 2015.

He had two knee reconstructions in his first three seasons, before being delisted and redrafted at the end of 2017.

Smith kicked his maiden AFL goal in round 15 against Port Adelaide in arguably his best performance at the level, where he collected 24 disposals and laid five tackles.

Gardner, 22, was drafted from Footscray in this year’s AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

The tall utility made his AFL debut the same week – against the West Coast Eagles in Perth – which was one of his two senior appearances for the year.

General Manager of List and Recruiting, Sam Power, said both Smith and Gardner had the attributes to be successful AFL players for the Bulldogs.

“We saw some really promising signs from Roarke and Ryan in 2019,” Power said.

“Roarke’s challenges with injury early in his career are well-known. This year, he was able to consistently play good football for Footscray and make an impact when given the opportunity at senior level.

“He’s good by foot and has the flexibility to play roles across all three lines.

“Ryan also offers great versatility, in being able to play as a key defender or key forward, and he provides plenty of competitiveness in the air.

“He was drafted on the back of some impressive form for Footscray, and while a knee injury restricted him later in the season, we are confident he has more to offer at AFL level.”

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