- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has revealed Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was close to an AFL debut much earlier this season but a concussion and COVID-19 complexities held the No.1 draft pick back.
The prodigiously-talented key forward has finally forced his way into the high-flying Bulldogs' team, and will run out on Sunday against Sydney at Marvel Stadium.
Gun goal-kicker Aaron Naughton being ruled out with concussion has created an opening for the 19-year-old to slot into the Bulldogs' forward line.
Ugle-Hagan fired with five goals for Footscray in round two but has failed to star in a VFL game since.
But Beveridge says Ugle-Hagan was on track to debut before being concussed in May, then the VFL season was thrown into chaos due to Victoria's two-week lockdown.
"(Sunday) is his first experience at the (AFL) level and in many ways he'll find it easier on a couple of fronts," Beveridge told reporters on Friday.
"He probably got to the point, just when he was concussed, where he was close (to selection).
"He was playing a stronger four quarters but he had to miss a month because we got shutdown and he couldn't play a state-league level, either.
"Now he's worked his way back in to four-quarter outlet and we're confident he will get through the four quarters."
Beveridge was thrilled for Ugle-Hagan to be rewarded for his resilience and determination during a trying rookie year.
"Marra was a bit emotional. His grandma came in and spoke and presented him with his number," Beveridge said.
"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 big day for him, the club and the mob from Framlingham (in western Victoria)."
In an added twist to his debut, Ugle-Hagan's childhood idol, Lance Franklin, will be at the opposite end of the ground in Sydney's forward line as the Indigenous star closes in on the magical 1000-goal mark.