Hawks' Shiels to become youngest in AFL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hawks' Shiels to become youngest in AFL

By Melissa Woods 29/05/2009 05:56:44 PM Comments (0)

Schoolboy Liam Shiels will become the youngest current player in the AFL when he makes his senior debut for Hawthorn against Adelaide on Sunday.

Continuing injury problems have forced Hawthorn to toss Shiels, who only turned 18 on April 29, into action at one of the AFL's toughest arenas, AAMI Stadium.

The midfielder, who attends Aquinas College in the Melbourne suburb of Ringwood, has been named after injury to two other promising Hawks youngsters Garry Moss (knee) and Cameron Stokes (hamstring).

Shiels will become their second debutant in as many weeks after Beau Muston's impressive first-up display in the clash with Melbourne.

"The couple we've lost have been pretty important players for us," Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said on Friday.

"Mossy played some really good footy and so has young Stokes so they will be sorely missed."

When not at school, Shiels splits his time between training with the Hawks and their VFL affiliate, Box Hill, however Clarkson said he was ready for the big stage.

"We've named Liam Shiels to make his debut at AAMI Stadium which is a pretty hard fortress to make your debut in but he'll acquit himself really well.

"We're really excited for his progress, he's the youngest lad playing AFL footy, he's still going to school so it's an exciting time for him and his family as well as our footy club."

Clarkson said injuries across the Hawthorn squad meant younger players were been handed opportunities, and were impressing.

"Against Melbourne, who everyone was saying `they haven't got much experience and they've got a pretty young side on the park' we were below them in average age and below them in games' experience," he said.

"For our young blokes to acquit themselves like they did last week and still run out on top was a great credit to them.

"We're expecting that these young lads will continue to make some errors as they go through.

"But they're learning an enormous amount while they play senior footy and hopefully some time in the next 18 months that greater depth that we'll have with the development of these young kids will hold us in greater stead."

In other injury news for Hawthorn, Clarkson revealed playmaker Luke Hodge could have played against Adelaide but they were taking a cautious approach with his recovery.

"He's been carrying an adductor injury for the past three or four weeks ... but it came to a head in the Essendon game when he just wasn't able to explode and was found wanting early in the game," he said.

"He could play this week if we really needed him to go again and if it was finals we would probably give that some consideration but we want to get him totally right.

"We know the second half of the season is important for us to try and build as many wins as we can so we'll probably give him another week or two."

Shiels is likely to be one of the last schoolboys to play in the AFL, with the draft age rising by three months this year.

The Hawks beat Adelaide by four points at AAMI Stadium last year, and Clarkson predicted another close tussle.

"We were fortunate to defeat them in round 12 last year, but it was only by the scariest of margins and it was a real tough contest," he said.

"We're expecting the same again this week.

"We know when Adelaide are playing their best footy and we are too it's a real arm wrestle."

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