Freo teenager set to get gig on Cousins - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Freo teenager set to get gig on Cousins

By Justin Chadwick 27/05/2009 03:47:40 PM Comments (0)

Should star Richmond midfielder Ben Cousins succeed in his race against time to recover from a broken hand, the former Eagle may find himself in a race against Fremantle speedster Stephen Hill.

Dockers coach Mark Harvey indicated on Wednesday 19-year-old Hill was likely to get the job on Cousins should the 2005 Brownlow Medallist front up for his Perth homecoming in Saturday night's clash at Subiaco Oval.

Hill was a surprise selection by Fremantle with pick No.3 in last year's national draft, ahead of polished Brisbane midfielder Daniel Rich.

But the Dockers' gamble has paid early dividends, with Hill's scintillating form in recent weeks suggesting he could become an elite player in years to come.

And Harvey is eager to give the 184cm, 69kg midfielder the toughest test of his career to date - a tantalising match-up with Cousins.

"I like to challenge our younger players," Harvey said.

"Last week we had (Matt) de Boer on (Daniel) Wells.

"If we are going to come of age as a team we have to challenge our younger players and sometimes put them on the best players of the opposition.

"I think he (Hill) can handle it.

"I just fleetingly mentioned it on the way here and he just smiled and kept walking, like he always does.

"I think he plays with experience, even though he's only nine games down the track he doesn't get flustered and he backs himself in."

And in what would be a selection bombshell, Harvey said goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne was a good chance to make his AFL debut this week.

Ballantyne, pick No.21 in last year's national draft, has been sidelined since last December after undergoing surgery to remove a screw from his wrist.

The 21-year-old has been back in full training for the past three weeks but is yet to even feature in a WAFL game this year.

However, Harvey is keen to throw Ballantyne into the deep end to replace the injured Roger Hayden, who could miss up to two months with a fractured leg.

"He's had five months of running and training," Harvey said.

"We went through some match simulation with Ballantyne last Saturday ... and he was extraordinary in those results."

With Rhys Palmer (knee) and Ryan Crowley (foot) ruled out for the rest of the season, and Hayden set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines, Harvey admitted the club had been left with little choice but to call upon their first-year players.

"We are right on the level of not having any real experience to fall back on," he said.

"But we knew that when we went to the draft last year that if we had a run of injuries, and particularly long-term injuries, we were going to have problems.

"That's why you never saw us putting too much expectation on our season pending those sort of things."

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