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Western Bulldogs young gun Ryley Sanders to make AFL debut

Jackson Clark -

Western Bulldogs young gun Ryley Sanders will make his AFL debut this weekend against Melbourne at the MCG.

The young Tasmanian has been one of the Bulldogs' standout performers throughout the pre-season and has impressed with starring performances in the club's trial games and the AAMI Community Series win over Hawthorn.

The Indigenous 18-year-old gathered 30 disposals and looked impressive around the stoppages in the Bulldogs' 17.17 (119) to 9.8 (62) win over the Hawks a fortnight ago.

Sanders was told the news of making his debut prior to training this morning and told media that he feels great.

"I've just been stoked with how welcoming all the players and coaches have been towards me," he said.

"I've just felt so comfortable and they've let me do the things that got me drafted, so I'm glad that's shown in the pre-season and Bevo and the coaches have picked me.

"It's an unreal opportunity to debut at any time, but especially in round one in front of a big crowd at the MCG against a good side in Melbourne – it'll be great."

Ryley Sanders at Western Bulldogs training. (Image: Herald Sun)

Sanders was selected with the Bulldogs first pick – number six overall – in last year's AFL National Draft after a brilliant U18 campaign in the Coates Talent League and at national level.

The classy midfielder averaged over 30 possessions per game for the Sandringham Dragons and a whopping 39 disposals per game for Melbourne Grammar in the APS competition.

At representative level, he captained the Allies to an undefeated carnival at the AFL U18 National Championships, was named captain of the All-Australian team and won the Larke Medal as the player of the championships.

Earlier in the week, Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge claimed that Sanders was the best young draftee he has seen come through the club during his time as coach.

"He is, in a significant way, well ahead of any first-year player that I have ever seen come through our football club," Beveridge said.

"I probably compared him to some of our lads historically who you hope might be able to impact in their first year and consider how far they might be ahead of the curb.

"We feel he has a really bright future and we're pretty pleased it's with us."

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