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AFL Player Diary: Anatomy of a Debut

Lewis Young  July 18, 2017 1:11 PM

Young blood takes his chance BulldogsTV takes you behind the scenes of Lewis Young's debut against Carlton during Round 18. Young will be the club's 999th debut.
AFL 2017 Round 17 - Carlton v Western Bulldogs

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Lewis Young of the Bulldogs handballs during the 2017 AFL round 17 match between the Carlton Blues and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)

Playing my first game on Sunday was a surreal experience, and is something that I’m still coming to grips with.

Like all kids who grow up playing AFL and idolising their heroes, it’s something that was always a dream and something that I worked incredibly hard for. To do it, however, is another thing altogether!

Despite being so young and turning 18 just 11 days before the end of 2016, I had my heart set on being selected in the 2016 draft, knowing that 2017 could be a fall-back option if I was to be unsuccessful.

My tender age meant that a lot of clubs looked at me as a developing player who could be good in a few years so snapping me up in 2016 would provide another year of development in the AFL system, so I don’t think it was a negative.

But it wasn’t until a week before the draft that the possibility started to become a reality. Prior to that I was just hopeful.

Looking back at everything, I couldn’t be happier to have landed with the Western Bulldogs, even if my parents were upset to see me leave home at such a young age.

Since moving to the Whitten Oval, I’ve learnt so much and have really bonded with the other young boys at the club. We all talk about relocation and what we’re getting up to on our days off and how we’re coping. It’s just nice to be able to have that release because we’re all going through the same thing.

As the season has progressed, I wasn’t sure if I’d debut or not, but my focus was just on playing strongly with the reserves.

My VFL form had been pretty good. I’ve moved around a little bit, starting up forward and then moving into defence. I did a lot of work with Rohan Smith and Jordan Russell to assist with my positioning in defence and that really helped me to get some form.

Then, the news I had been waiting for came last Thursday morning.

The match committee chose the team at 8:30am, and Rohan Smith came into the physio room and took me into his office.

There, Luke Beveridge, Rohan and Jordan Russell told me that I was playing. Then, Bevo announced it to the group later in the afternoon and everyone got around me.

I rang dad straight away. Rohan Smith told me that I needed to ring him immediately which I appreciated, so I ran over to my phone and gave him a call.

The next couple of days were a bit of a blur. Obviously, a lot of things changed with the build-up given I was playing for a new team — it was a lot more intense in terms of the scheduling of the day, but overall the morning of the game and in the week leading up I did all of the same things.

I didn’t want to change anything, I wanted to act as if I was just going into a normal VFL or under 18s game.

So I continued with my slightly weird pre-game ritual...

To find out what Lewis Young's pre-match routine comprises of, and read the remainder of the column about his debut, click here to read on