Bailey Humphrey may be one of the leading draft prospects of 2022, but it has been a long and heartbreaking road at times to get there.
Humphrey is a midfield-forward prospect who boasts a big frame and contested ball winning abilities, but who also has the capacity to hit the scoreboard up forward, making him a rare commodity that has seen him compared to the likes of Christian Petracca.
He looms as a genuine top 10 prospect, but his journey through adversity so far is already more admirable than any high draft result could be.
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Humphrey has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety.
In January last year, Humphrey’s best friend Riley Pearce tragically took his own life at the age of 17.
Pearce had been diagnosed with severe depression, mild anxiety and social anxiety, but Humphrey and Pearce’s family reflected in the aftermath they were never truly let in to the extent of the 17-year-old’s struggles.
Speaking to foxfooty.com.au, Humphrey explained the significance of a blue wristband he now wears almost constantly.
“I haven‘t taken it off since my mate passed away,” he said.
“Once I figured out that it’s okay not to be OK, I haven’t taken it off yet other than footy games.”
A difficult enough event in its own right, Humphrey had also already been dealing with his own mental health problems, albeit as he admits not as severe as those of his best friend.
“I think I was struggling a little bit with my mental health,” he said of a break from top-end football he took in 2020.
“I think having a little bit of a break from footy … just having the stress off me while suffering a little bit of a dark patch I think was definitely important.”
Humphrey luckily had developed a support network that continued to aid him through the struggles of Covid-19.
The teenager has been remarkably transparent about his mental health in the lead-up to the draft, attempting to chart a path his fellow draftees can take inspiration from.
“It still obviously makes you a bit uncomfortable and a bit on the edge, but it’s got to happen and more people have got to do it,” he said.
“I think talking about it once it sort of makes it a little bit easier the next time.
“I’m hoping that people look at that and say, ‘someone like him is talking, why can’t I?’
“I think they’ll figure it out that communication is the best thing for your mental health and just communicating about anything is best.”
All of this is not to understate Humphrey’s football ability, which is considerable.
In his own words, when asked to describe himself, the Gippsland Power captain said: “A real competitive inside contested player, with the ability to go forward and get on the scoreboard and be dangerous in the air and on my feet and I‘ve got a pretty penetrating kick.”
His ability to hit the scoreboard has drawn the eyes of recruiters, perhaps no more so than in round 14 against Northern Knights when he racked up 31 disposals and kicked 4.5.
He is making an impact on the football field and looks set to do so for a long time, but arguably just as impressive is the work he is already trying to do off it.
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