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The players in the mix for round one AFL debuts

“He’s come into the team and had a really strong pre-season,” Ziebell told the Sunday Age.

“He’s the type of kid who prepares like he’s been in the AFL for 10 years, the way he goes about it. He’s slotted in on a wing, and knows how to play that role really well. He’s definitely putting the heat on the coaches to try to get his debut early on in the year.”

Luke McDonald and Bailey Scott (right) celebrate during a pre-season match. Scott has had an immediate impact.

Luke McDonald and Bailey Scott (right) celebrate during a pre-season match. Scott has had an immediate impact.Credit:AAP

Fellow draftee Tarryn Thomas has been a bit quieter than Scott in the pre-season but Ziebell wouldn’t rule out the Tasmanian from early-season contention.

“There again you have some more headaches for Brad and his coaches,” Ziebell said.

Versatile tall Nick Blakey turned down North and the Brisbane Lions, where he had been eligible as a father-son player, to remain in Sydney as an academy selection, having grown up around the Swans where his father John has been a long-time member of the club’s coaching staff. Blakey played both of Sydney’s JLT games, kicking two goals against Gold Coast in Lismore.

Sydney co-captain Luke Parker suggested Blakey had to be in serious consideration for a round one debut against the Western Bulldogs.

“He’s been really impressive,” Parker said. “He attacks every training session with willingness to learn and immerse himself amongst the senior group of players. He’s always had a little bit of flair and incredible skill for a bloke that size.

“I think he’ll only continue to get better and better. But hopefully we’ll see him on the park early, which will be great.”

After an outstanding pre-season, No. 1 draft pick Sam Walsh is effectively a walk-up start for Carlton in the Blues’ traditional season-opener against Richmond, however the club’s co-captain Patrick Cripps was reluctant to talk up the teenage midfielder too much, given the hype surrounding his early showings at senior level.

The Bulldogs' Bailey Smith is in line for a round one AFL debut.

The Bulldogs’ Bailey Smith is in line for a round one AFL debut.Credit:AAP

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on him,” Cripps said.

“He’s ready to go. He’ll hit the ground running and he’ll work his backside off as quick as he can. He’ll have an impact this year no doubt, but I’m not going to put too much pressure on him.”

West Australian Jordan Clark has shone for Geelong at half-back during the pre-season, with the first-round selection looming as another likely opening round debutant when the Cats confront Collingwood next Friday night at the MCG.

“He’s impressive. He’s a kid in a rush, and I like that about him. He’s bullish and he’s no-fuss,” Geelong captain Joel Selwood said.

Bailey Smith – another of last year’s early selections – is pressing for an early-season debut after showing glimpses of his quality for the Western Bulldogs during the JLT series after a slow start to his pre-season because of an Achilles issue.

“He’s proven that he’s capable of playing at the level,” Bulldogs leader Jason Johannisen said of Smith.

“He had a bit of interruption due to injury through the pre-season but he seems to be bit and firing so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the nod in round one.”

AFL players in the mix for a round one debut

Adelaide: Chayce Jones
Brisbane Lions: Connor Ballenden
Carlton: Sam Walsh, Mick Gibbons
Collingwood: Nil
Essendon: Nil
Fremantle: Brett Bewley
Geelong: Jordan Clark, Charlie Constable, Tom Atkins, Gryan Miers
Gold Coast: Chris Burgess, Jack Lukosius
GWS: Jye Caldwell, Jackson Hateley
Hawthorn: Dylan Moore, Ollie Hanrahan
Melbourne: Marty Hore
North Melbourne: Bailey Scott, Tarryn Thomas
Port Adelaide: Zak Butters, Willem Drew, Xavier Duursma, Connor Rozee
Richmond: Noah Balta
St Kilda: Nick Hind, Matt Parker, Callum Wilkie
Sydney: Nick Blakey
West Coast: Jarrod Cameron, Francis Watson
Western Bulldogs: Bailey Smith, Will Hayes, Lachlan Young

Daniel is an Age sports reporter.

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