Bailey Rice (right) trained with the Saints this year. Photo: Getty Images
Just because your dad played footy doesn’t mean childhood is simple.
Dean Rice separated from his son Bailey’s mum Tracey when their boy was just three. Bailey has no full siblings, but has two younger half-brothers on his dad’s side, and two younger half brothers and a half sister from his mum.
It means Bailey has grown up being pulled in two directions. He lives with his dad and sees his mum a couple of time a week. “Through primary school and the start of high school it was [at its worst]. You got to be getting from one side to the other and bring all your stuff with you,” Bailey says.
Could be a stretch: St Kilda will face a call over Bailey Rice on Tuesday night. Photo: Wayne Taylor
“Knowing where you’ve got to go, whose house you’re at.
“Going through high school you just get better at it. Living with dad it makes it easier with footy.”
High school itself has been complicated. For starters, Bailey’s attended three of them. He did year 7 at St Francis Xavier’s College, a choice made by his dad. Bailey says he didn’t like it much there. On he went to Gleneagles secondary college, and then from year 10 – Hallam senior college – where Bailey has been part of the school’s sports academy. He says he been much happier there, and has plenty of mates.
Bailey Rice in action for Vic Country. Photo: Pat Scala
The challenges show a layer of complexity, because at face value Bailey Rice has it all made for him. How many kids get the chance to train with an AFL club while they were in year 12? Rice ticked that box, spending time with St Kilda for a stage this season.
How many take to the MCG in a competitive game against Collingwood? Rice did that as well, during a brief taste with the VFL’s Northern Blues.
Those are the perks when your dad plays more than 100 games for two AFL clubs, as Rice’s father Dean did during a career spanning 15 seasons at the top level. In a system which leaves players vulnerable to football’s wheel of fortune, Rice got to choose which of the Saints or Carlton he thought would be a better fit.
Bailey was a Blues supporter growing up. He even has faint memories of going in to join his dad during Dean’s final years a Blue. Yet he went with the St Kilda.
As a result of Bailey’s choice, Dean’s first club gets first crack at his progeny. However the new bidding system means there are no 100% guarantees.
Carlton have the next chance if the Saints don’t think the price is right. But Bailey knows he could end up anywhere. And he’s ready for that possibility.
“I’m not that kind of person that if I would get drafted interstate or somewhere that I’d get homesick.
“I’d be doing the same thing if I was at a Victorian club.”
Having braced for one contingency, what would Bailey Rice do if football doesn’t work out? “I’d probably go along the lines of the police force – navy or army something along those lines.”
It makes sense. Rice doesn’t take any prisoners as a player. He’s known for his physicality and courage, if not for his endurance – having managed just a 12.2 beep test at a private screening last week.
But thing the former Beaconsfield and Longwarry prodigy has is versatility. Having played forward as a junior, Bailey then played across the wing, half back and through the middle for the Dandenong Stingrays. He is a daring footballer, although things don’t always work out. “It can be bad at some stages. It depends how you read the ball. I think I read the ball well which it makes that bit better.”
“I like the run and carry, and just that taking a gamble.”
There will come a point on Tuesday night when the Saints, and maybe the Blues too, have to decide about whether to have a punt.