How youth benefits the game…
By Kayla Voss
Young players in today’s game are lighting up the stage. Debutantes, no matter the era, are always exciting moments for clubs and fans, but in today’s game it feels exciting for different reasons. Or, perhaps, the reasons are simply emphasised.
Sure there is excitement of witnessing the game’s future stars, but in recent years debutantes are having more of an impact than ever. The nature of the modern game is paving the way for these exciting players.

PERSONALITY. If there is one thing these young guns have in common, it is their ability to add their own flare and personality to the game. Xavier Duursma introduced the AFL world to his bow and arrow celebration, and ignored haters comments by refusing to drop it. Izak Rankine’s unique personality shines through in his game. His first touch in AFL football proved just that as he danced around Melbourne defenders and snapped around his body to produce a goal. Bailey Smith has become a crucial part of the Western Bulldog’s midfield, as his love of the game is evident through his ball-hunting attitude. Another young star, who just made his debut, is Trey Ruscoe. The Collingwood debutante loves a celebration as he debuted three different handshakes with his teammates to football fans.

The personalities that are showcased each round add another dimension for football fans. Characters like Xavier Duursma, Izak Rankine, Bailey Smith and Trey Ruscoe are producing exciting football while putting on a unique show.

FRESH STYLES. Young, inexperienced players just want to play football. More than ever, their excitement to play is transparent in the way they play. Young players have an element of speed and surprise in their game which has the ability to open up the game. Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Carlton are perfect examples of how young players are channelling an exciting, fast-paced brand of football.

When talking about Port Adelaide, the young trio of Zak Butters, Xavier Duursma and Connor Rozee often comes to mind. In the past two games, Boyd Woodcock has proven himself to be in the mix. These players are taking on Port Adelaide’s fast-paced style and using it beautifully. Their speed and skills are opening up Port’s game, whether Duursma is running the ball out of their defensive 50, or Butters is using his clean, quick hands to move the ball out of traffic, or Rozee and Woodcock are outrunning their defenders to create open goal opportunities.

Gold Coast are another example of how injecting youth has transformed and amplified their game style. Matt Rowell, Izak Rankine and Noah Anderson are some of the young players that Gold Coast have to support their fast-paced style. These players are creating run using their football IQ to create more effective forward 50 entries.

Carlton are a similar story. After a few seasons of abysmal efforts, they seem to finally be finding their footing in the AFL. Although they still have a long way to go, their young players are promising a bright future. Sam Walsh is the obvious player that has recently come into the side and created exciting possibilities for the team. His poise and pure class at a young age is exciting for Carlton fans.

While these young players are already impressive so early in their career, it is the support they receive from seasoned players that emphasise their impact.

EXUBERANCE FOR “OLD TIMERS”. Alone, these young players are imposing, but coupled with experienced players, clubs are presenting a thrilling package. Seasoned players are using these young players to motivate them and channelling their attitudes to enjoy the game. The pressure can get to more experience players, and at times they can find themselves stuck. However, clubs are using youth to loosen up and imploring the importance of simply playing the game they love.

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