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Fremantle will take two first year players to Adelaide with Andrew Brayshaw and Bailey Banfield set to make their round one debuts against Port on Saturday at Adelaide Oval.
Senior coach Ross Lyon has thrown his confidence behind the young pair, with the new draftees impressing in the preseason in their two JLT Community Series appearances, a scratch match against West Coast and in the AFLX.
The selection decision comes as Fremantle enters a historic new era at Optus Stadium, with Fremantle offering a number of exciting membership options for fans looking to get on board for the 2018 season.
Brayshaw and Banfield learnt of their impending debut during Monday afternoon’s team meeting, when captain Nat Fyfe presented the pair with the jumpers they will wear on Saturday.
The 18-year-old Brayshaw said it was a dream-like feeling hearing the news from a player such as Fyfe.
“Nat said that I’d worked really hard all summer and I’d earnt my spot. He was really happy for me that I’d be travelling with him and playing my first game of AFL,” Brayshaw said.
“It was pretty surreal hearing the words from his mouth and going up to shake his hand. It was an awesome experience.”
With five days to go until round one, Brayshaw said that he’s glad to be sharing his debut game with a fellow first-year player.
“It would be a little bit more daunting going by yourself, so to have someone who’s also playing their first game will help me a bit,” Brayshaw said.
“All summer you work really hard and it’s the ultimate goal for every first year player, so I’m feeling on top of the world at the moment,” Brayshaw said.”
Banfield agreed, saying that he’ll be working closely with Brayshaw throughout the week.
“It does help a little bit knowing that someone else is in the exact same shoes as you and I’m sure we’ll be bouncing off each other throughout the week and helping each other out,” Banfield said.
“I’m not too nervous yet, that will build throughout the week. I’m just really excited at the moment and really really glad that I get my chance.”
While Brayshaw and Bandield will debut together, they arrived at Fremantle in vastly different circumstances.
A highly touted prospect from the Sandringham Dragons, Brayshaw was selected with pick no.2 in the 2017 NAB AFL National Draft, while Banfield was passed over by all 18 clubs in both the 2016 and 2017 national drafts.
Instead, the Claremont prospect was taken with pick no.5 in the 2017 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
While Brayshaw has lived up to his billing as one of the most promising young prospects in the country since his arrival at Fremantle, Banfield has proved that a player’s draft number is meaningless, with impressive performances at training and throughout pre-season.
Fremantle has a history of success in the rookie draft, including current teammates Aaron Sandilands, Ethan Hughes, Matt Taberner and Lee Spurr all arriving at Fremantle as rookies.
Banfield said that while he wasn’t ruling himself out as a round one chance when he arrived at the club, he didn’t feel like it was a realistic goal.
“I was hoping, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Banfield said.
“Coming in, I thought I was a long way off playing so it’s definitely exceeded my expectations.
“It was always a hope and a goal but not one that I thought was necessarily realistic.”