Hayden Young loved playing alongside fellow defender Joel Hamling against St Kilda on Sunday, in what was just their second AFL game together at Fremantle.

In the absence of Brennan Cox under the AFL’s health and safety protocols, Hamling returned to the Fremantle line-up for the first time in 372 days.

Hamling had played just one game in the past two years, having sustained an ankle injury in his previous outing in round one against Melbourne last season.

The key defender played 87 per cent game time against the Saints on Sunday, the third highest of any Fremantle player, while keeping his direct opponent in Jack Hayes scoreless.

Young praised Hamling’s optimism over a difficult two-year period with injury.

“It was really inspiring, the good thing about Joel is that over the last two years where he has battled with injuries, he has always stayed really optimistic,” Young told ABC Sport.

“He has just been a great person to be around, and he has never brought the group down.

“For him to get an opportunity tonight was really fantastic, I thought he did really well, and it’s just great to see him back out there playing footy.

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PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Joel Hamling of the Dockers shirt fronts Max King of the Saints during the 2022 AFL Round 02 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the St Kilda Saints at Optus Stadium on March 27, 2022 In Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos)

Hamling and Young are just two names in a backline group filled with plenty of depth, with strong availability leaving the competition for spots at a high.

“It is a good problem we have at the moment, we have had a good pre-season with a lot of availability,” Young said.

“It’s good that we are now battling for spots and, hopefully, it holds us in good stead for the year.”

Young addressed Freo’s inability to handle St Kilda’s pressure game, and felt basic errors let the side down.

“Their pressure was really good, and we probably didn’t handle it well enough,” Young said.

“JL (Senior Coach Justin Longmuir) did address it, and we seemed to have options on the open side of the ground, but we just weren’t using them.

“We let ourselves down with the basics and there were errors that were costly.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Hayden Young of the Dockers in action during the 2022 AFL Round 02 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the St Kilda Saints at Optus Stadium on March 27, 2022 In Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel CarsonAFL Photos)

“We felt like we had a lot of control throughout the game in certain periods, but particularly in that third quarter we let ourselves down and they piled on the goals.

“We were turning the ball over and it was really hard to defend behind it and it meant our key defenders had a lot of work to do.”

Young also weighed into the thrill of seeing debutant Nathan O’Driscoll get his opportunity in the final term against the Saints, stunning the crowd with a goal off his first kick in AFL football.

“It was really great, ‘Drizz’ is a well-loved player amongst the group and he has worked extremely hard to get his opportunity,” Young said.

“It was just really special to see him go forward and kick that goal, it lifted the boys.”

22:38 Mins
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