Mackenzie Willis, in his Gold Coast Suns gear, says it’s great to know his close mate Kieran Lovell will also be making his first top-flight appearance this weekend. Pictute: John Gass
FORMER State League Tigers duo Kieran Lovell and Mackenzie Willis will make their AFL debuts tomorrow in a dream Saturday for the Kingborough region.
The close friends, who were taken by Hawthorn (pick 22) and Gold Coast (52) in last year’s draft, have been named in their club’s 22 for round six.
Three-time reigning premier Hawthorn heads to Spotless Stadium to clash with Greater Western Sydney in the twilight game, and the Suns visit Geelong under lights at Simonds Stadium.
Lovell has been named as an emergency for the Hawks on several occasions this season and was the only non-playing Hawk who travelled to Launceston a fortnight ago as back-up for the match against St Kilda.
He has shown impressive form in the VFL for Box Hill and kicked five goals against Williamstown the day after returning from Aurora Stadium.
A spate of injuries at Gold Coast — Michael Rischitelli (shoulder) has joined David Swallow (knee) and Jaeger O’Meara (knee), rebounding defender Adam Saad (hip) and key defenders Rory Thompson (ankle) on the sidelines — has paved the way for Willis to grab his chance.
The silky mature age recruit will replace Saad as the team’s line breaker off halfback.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m sure in the next 24 hours and on Saturday it will,” Willis told the Mercury last night.
“I have been playing some pretty good footy in the NEAFL for the last month and Rocket [coach Rodney Eade] has been really positive.
“I was named as an emergency last week … so I kind of had an inkling I was getting close.”
Willis, who became the first player drafted out of the TSL since Gold Coast selected Aaron Hall with pick 52 in 2012, said it would be a special weekend knowing Lovell was also making his first appearance at the top flight.
“We do keep in touch. We send messages to each other every once in a while.
“It will be a huge weekend for the Tigers, obviously both of us playing there last year.”
After knocking on the door in recent weeks, Lovell earned his spot as one of two changes for the Hawks.
He will be joined by Daniel Howe, with Will Langford and Billy Hartung making way