Bailey Smith has shocked Australia with news that he will quit the AFL to deal with mental health issues following his latest off-field scandal.
Smith was recently punished for appearing in a social media post holding a bag of white powder, and he raised mental health battles when discussing the incident with the media. He has since quit the sport entirely to start a new career.
“I will step aside from the AFL immediately,” Smith announced through a prepared statement.
“I have made this difficult decision for reasons of mental health. My battles with mental health have been well documented, even after my latest off-field scandal and subsequent nomination for The Fronwlow Medal.”
His next career move was as big a shock as his decision to leave the sport.
“I will spend six months of the year as a school teacher and the next six months as a nurse, so that I can gain a more accurate understanding of mental health struggles,” the Western Bulldogs star explained.
“I will teach secondary students, most likely as a PD/H/PE teacher, for the remainder of this year. I chose teaching because I want to learn exactly what mental health struggles look like. I want to experience the constant drain of secondary school teaching in underfunded schools where teachers are overworked and underpaid and constantly under attack from parents and students. I want to understand the mental health strain on people who are vital to the nation but are completely undervalued and often criticised by Australian society, in contrast to footballers who are adored for simply playing a game they love.”
“On a personal note, I want to feel what it’s like to be ignored, teased, criticised or even physically attacked by teenagers, including some who’ll become professional footballers in a few years time. If you’d heard the stories the boys tell in the locker room about their school days, you’d know what I mean.”
Australians were just as shocked to learn that a person with no teaching experience or qualifications could simply walk into a full-time teaching position, but such is the shortage of teachers in Australia – created largely through the mental health strain placed on teachers.
After teaching for six months, Smith then plans to work as a nurse.
“I will work as a nurse for similar reasons,” he outlined.
“I want to truly understand the mental health strain of working an extremely stressful and underpaid job which was made a lot worse during the pandemic, and was bad enough before COVID-19.”
“I want to live through the emotional and psychological strain of caring for sick, injured, scared, smelly, dirty, abused, unstable, violent, dying people on a daily basis without proper remuneration or even adequate personal protection equipment.”
“I also want to be on the other side when a professional footballer abuses drugs or alcohol and has to be saved from themselves.”
Bailey then explained exactly why he had chosen these two careers above any other.
“Above all, I want to know what it’s like to be given gratitude instead of a reasonable wage.”
The nursing and teaching jobs will keep Smith out of the AFL until June 2023. Will the social media darling be back in the AFL, and back into contention for The Fronwlow Medal?
Only time will tell. Or maybe he will be back on the field once he reviews his bank balance.
Image: AAP, James Ross