The best footy photo of 2021 might have been taken in round one

Footy photographer Michael Willson has wasted no time this season, capturing one of the all-time great AFL photos just two games into round one.

AFL fans were left stunned by the shot, which depicts Doggies midfielder Bailey Smith in full flight — literally — during Friday night’s clash between the Bulldogs and Magpies.

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Willson’s shot shows Smith leaping over two players to evade Pies star Jeremy Howe, his mullet swaying majestically as he manages to dispose of the footy.

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“Seriously, that is brilliant in every way,” AFL commentator Alister Nicholson said of Willson’s photo.

Elsewhere, fans called it “incredible”, “amazing” and “the best photo”.

Give him the photo of the year award now. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

The shot summed up an extraordinary night at the office for Smith. He was seemingly everywhere in the Bulldogs’ 16-point win, chalking up two goals, seven score involvements and 35 disposals in his best-on-ground performance.

Coach Luke Beveridge opted to shift Smith around the park during the game, a move which didn’t seem to faze the young Bulldog.

“(Smith) spent half the night on the wing and half the night as an inside mid. He’s a prime example of being flexible,” Beveridge said in his post-match press conference.

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“He’s played some good footy, but to have it 35 times and kick two goals, that’s a reasonable game for a midfielder who wasn’t always inside.

“He’s a fine example of how we will adapt as we need to.”

As for Willson, the photographer knows all about capturing the game’s most breathtaking moments.

He was responsible for the iconic photo of Tayla Harris which prompted “inappropriate and offensive comments” in 2019 and was later immortalised in a statue at Federation Square — and another ripper of her taking a big grab this season.

Tayla Harris’ famous kick. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)Source:Supplied

Tayla Harris marks the ball over a pack. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Also in 2019, Willson snapped a photo of Brisbane’s Darcy Gardiner and GWS forward Jeremy Finlayson kissing during the finals series. Online, that pic was dubbed “photo of the season” and “beautiful”.

Love thy neighbour 😘 #AFLFinalspic.twitter.com/aYSP359mdf

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