Young makes AFL debut

Dandenong Stingrays 2019 best and fairest Hayden Young made his AFL debut on Saturday. 195934 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Nick Creely

Smooth-moving Hayden Young was the prized Dandenong Stingrays’ draft selection in last year’s AFL draft.

And now, just months into his career at the Fremantle Dockers, the left-footed youngster – taken with pick seven in the 2019 AFL Draft – has an AFL game next to his name after making his debut on Saturday against Brisbane at the Gabba.

In what has been a strange old 2020, Young – who won the best and fairest last season at the Stingrays after a dominant NAB League campaign – was a late inclusion after defender Nathan Wilson pulled out of the side with injury, but equipped himself well on the big stage, amassing 11 possessions and three tackles as his side went down narrowly to the Lions by 12 points.

Young – who called his family shortly before making his debut – told DockersTV after the match that it was a bit of a bizarre lead up to the clash with very little time to overthink the occasion.

“It was a bit of an interesting process, because obviously I was a late inclusion – it all happened pretty quickly and it was very exciting,” he said.

“It was probably too much to take in – a lot of the boys just said like ‘keep it simple and just play the game to your strengths’ so that was probably the main message that I took into the game.

“My family has been a great support for me over the years so to get an opportunity, they enjoyed it too.”

With the AFL season put on hold for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Young said it was certainly a different experience debuting in front of an empty stadium.

“This whole year’s been pretty unique, so it kind of sums it up that I’d debut without a crowd and no family,” he said.

“(But) that’s just how the year’s been going, but it was easy to hear the teammates and they helped me a lot and communicated to help me set up.”

Young’s Dockers stayed with last year’s semi-finalists for the majority of the clash, getting to within four points late in the final term, before a Dayne Zorko goal put the game to bed.

“It was a bit unfortunate – we ran with them the majority of the day, so we took a lot out of it, but we’ll go back to the drawing board, review the game and go again next week,” he said of the game.

“We’ve just got to start the game well so we don’t get on the back foot – there were a lot of positives to take out of it.”

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