Number one draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan still has a “fair way to go” to make his AFL debut despite starring with five goals in a VFL practice match last week.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said the 18-year-old still had things to improve before he could make it into the senior side and also needed to continue to build his fitness to be an AFL threat.
Beveridge said his talent was undoubted and on display in his five-goal haul against Collingwood, but he “definitely” wouldn’t play against West Coast this week.
“He kicked five, which is fantastic, and to see some of his specific gifts and traits come out that allowed him to rise to the top of that draft order was really exciting for all of us to see,” Beveridge said on Tuesday.
“He‘s still got a fair way to go, ’Marra’, and we’ve got to make sure that he’s ready and to be productive in winning games of footy for us.
’It was a step in the right direction, but he definitely won’t be in the team this week.”
Five of the best from Marra 😍
Beveridge is concerned that new VFL rules this season may impact the ability of young players to find the conditioning they need to make the step to AFL level.
There was an outcry when the VFL confirmed it would be used to trial zones for stoppages, requiring at least three players from each team to be stationed inside 50 – including a pair in the goalsquare – at all kick-ins, boundary throw-ins and ball-ups.
That has a two-fold effect of keeping forwards and defenders who would normally push up the ground closer to their respective goals to ensure they can get back into their zones.
Beveridge said it was a “spanner in the works” when it came to getting players to cover as much ground as they would in an AFL game, and that included Ugle-Hagan who played mainly as a forward.
“Jamarra didn‘t run anywhere near like he’s going to be required to run in an AFL game,” Beveridge said.
“So it’s actually going to hold a player like Jamarra back because we can’t get that match conditioning that he needs at AFL level.”
Testing out the hamstring! 🛫😱@easton_wood wasted no time proving his fitness on Friday arvo.
Former captain Easton Wood is also set to miss again despite returning from a hamstring injury in the VFL game last week.
The Bulldogs come up against a three-pronged Eagles attack of big men Oscar Allen, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling, but Beveridge backed his men who kept Collingwood to just seven goals last week.
“(Wood) has missed a bit of footy and sometimes it’s hard to change a winning side, and the back end were particularly good,” Beveridge said.
“We still want to score as much as anyone like any team, but to keep Collingwood to the lowest score of the round was a big win for us and the back seven were a critical part of that.
“It will be difficult to change that and Easton‘s aware of that. He got through the game which was really important after he’d had a couple of hiccups, so we’ll see, but he might spend another week or two playing state league and getting cherry ripe for his return.”
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