Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has revealed No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was close to making his much-anticipated AFL debut earlier this season.
After biding his time in the VFL, Ugle-Hagan will finally get the chance to showcase his immense potential against Sydney on Sunday at Marvel Stadium after fellow high flying forward Aaron Naughton was ruled out with concussion.
The key forward was in solid form in the twos before sustaining a concussion himself, with his return coinciding with the VFL season being interrupted by Melbourne’s Covid outbreak in late May.
Beveridge said Ugle-Hagan was “close” to making his debut but his concussion setback and lack of competitive football at state level further delayed his maiden opportunity at senior level.
“He probably got to the point when he was concussed where he was close,” Beveridge said.
“He was playing a stronger four quarters but he missed a month because we got shut down and he couldn’t play at state league level either.
“Now he’s worked his way back into his four quarter outlet … and we are confident he will get through the four quarters.”
Beveridge’s Bulldogs face Sydney this Sunday. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Beveridge also hailed Ugle-Hagan’s determination to keep persevering through a difficult rookie campaign and finally earn his colours in the senior team.
“Marra was a bit emotional,” Beveridge said.
“His grandma Lee came in and spoke and presented him with his jumper.
“She said when he was four he expressed to her that he wanted to be an AFL player and she was a bit worried that he was going to be disappointed because it doesn’t happen to everyone.
“To his credit, he’s worked really hard. He’s a determined young fella. It’s going to be a day for him, the club and the mob from Framlingham (his hometown).”
Lauded as the next superstar key-forward of the competition, Ugle-Hagan will share the field with his childhood hero Lance Franklin, a player he has long drawn comparisons to throughout his junior career.
“I think for ‘Marra’ being a young kid who has idolised different footballers, Lance has been one of them so that will be special,” Beveridge said.
“We all remember back to playing against the guys we might have had their numbers on our back when we were kids … I’m sure at some point ‘Marra will connect with Lance.”
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