The Western Bulldogs will give a skateboarding teenager one of the most intimidating debuts in the AFL – a trip to Perth to play West Coast.
Roarke Smith has been named to play his first game of senior football against the Eagles on Sunday, with coach Luke Beveridge saying the “free spirited” 18-year-old faces a baptism of fire.
The adventurous approach underlines why the Western Bulldogs have moved steadily up the ladder in 2015, winning many friends with their daring, attacking football.
Smith will become the seventh Dog to make their AFL debut this year, behind Bailey Dale, Caleb Daniel, Joel Hamling, Toby McLean, Josh Prudden and Lukas Webb.
Smith, a Calder Cannons product, is potentially a cult figure in waiting, with long blonde hair and a dashing approach.
But Beveridge, who has a great rapport with his young playing group, admits he had to put his foot down on one of Smith’s loves.
“We’ve had to stop him from riding his skateboard,” he said.
“We tried to get Tony Hawk in there to present his jumper in Perth but we couldn’t quite get him out of the States.
“He’s been playing our defence at VFL level, he’s a very athletic player and he’s worked his way into the side.
“He’s a great kid and we’re sure he’ll do well.”
Out of the Bulldogs side goes experienced pair Matthew Boyd (general soreness) and Liam Picken, who Beveridge said copped a knee to the back against Melbourne and was still sore.
Defender Jason Johannisen will also return against one of the league’s most formidable attacks.
The meeting of the AFL’s two Western clubs is also a clash between coaching mates.
Beveridge and Adam Simpson worked together at Hawthorn for two seasons – including the 2013 premiership year.
The Bulldogs coach had nothing but praise for his counterpart’s work with the Eagles, who are also enjoying a meteoric rise up the ladder.
“He’s doing an outstanding job,” he said.
“We still talk to each other regularly, he’s a good friend and we bounce one or two things off each other.”
The club of former Hawthorn assistants with senior jobs could soon grow by one, with Brendan Bolton in the frame for the Carlton position.
Beveridge said he wants to be coaching against Bolton next season.
“All the guys you work with over the journey you hope do really well … and we hope Bolts gets the Carlton job,” he said.