Michael Close makes tough AFL debut

HARROW'S Michael Close was given a baptism of fire in his AFL debut for the Brisbane Lions on Saturday.

Close and the Lions took on reigning premier Hawthorn in Tasmania, coming away with a 21.13 (139) to 13.13 (91) loss.

Close finished the match with one kick, three handballs and one mark, and was subbed out of the game for Lewis Taylor in the third quarter.

Despite his unassuming stat line, Close said he was relatively pleased with his first match.

"I was one of the key forwards, so my role was to keep presenting and create a contest," he said.

"I didn't do too bad and I didn't lose any one-on-ones, but I didn't find as much of the footy as I would have liked.

"I didn't hit up at the footy as much as I should have, but I learnt a lot and it was only my first game."

Close said the team had also been encouraged by its ability to challenge Hawthorn in the first three quarters.

The Lions trailed by only 25 points at three-quarter time in a match the Hawks were expected to dominate.

Close said it showed the talent of the young Lions side.

"We're definitely happy with the first three quarters," he said.

"The scoreline didn't end up showing how well we played to be honest.

"We just need to be able to produce that effort over a longer period of time and we'll be right up there with the best sides."

Close was joined on the field by fellow Wimmera player Kyle Cheney of Hawthorn.

Cheney played in an undermanned Hawks defence missing usual starters Brian Lake, Ryan Schoenmakers and Ben Stratton, finishing with eight disposals and three marks.

It was Cheney's 19th appearance in Hawthorn colours. Tom McDonald was another to represent the Wimmera at AFL level at the weekend, playing in Melbourne's loss to St Kilda.

McDonald played on Saints champion Nick Riewoldt, restricting him well until receiving a badly corked thigh in the third quarter.

The Demons had already substituted Jack Fitzpatrick in the second quarter, forcing McDonald to labour through the match.

Matt Rosa and Brett Goodes were scheduled to line up for West Coast and the Western Bulldogs respectively last night after the Mail-Times went to press.

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