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Van Unen sets sights on debut

Essendon's bounty of 2013 recruits, including Dylan Van Unen (back right) - ${keywords}
Essendon's bounty of 2013 recruits, including Dylan Van Unen (back right)
IF NICK Kommer is the poster boy for dream debuts, then Essendon teammate Dylan Van Unen hopes he can muster something similar this season.

Kommer played a pivotal forward pressure role in his Bombers debut in the club's memorable 35-point win over Adelaide, was named in the best players and kicked his first AFL goal to go along with 16 possessions.

One of the lasting memories from the game was the shaggy-haired recruit receiving the traditional post-match Powerade soaking while belting out the team song.

It was said last year, that Kommer – drafted with pick No. 73 in last year's NAB AFL Draft – was one of two Essendon players the club foresaw playing senior football in 2013.

It just so happens that Van Unen (pick No. 51) was the other.

While Jason Winderlich's three goals in his return to football stole much of the limelight, the 21-year-old defender also played his first game in a number of weeks against Sandringham in the club's VFL practice match on Good Friday.

His overlap run from the back half and speedy movement through congestion stood out in the game at the club's High Performance Centre near Melbourne Airport.

"This was my first real hit out, I was a bit rusty, but I started to come back in to it a little bit," Van Unen told after the game.

Van Unen played 50 per cent of the club's VFL practice match against Geelong on March 2, but suffered a setback after injuring his wrist against Collingwood the following week.

He watched on last Friday night as Kommer quickly became Essendon's new cult hero. He hopes to follow in Kommer's footsteps in making his debut for the Bombers at some stage this year.

"Kommer's just come in and he's been really intense and wowed everyone in his approach to footy," Van Unen said.

"It was really good to see him get a game last week, I thought he played pretty well too."

Van Unen had an outstanding year for Frankson in the VFL last year. After being overlooked in the draft when at the Eastern Ranges in 2008, Van Unen spent three seasons struggling to break in to the Box Hill Hawks' senior team.

But it was his accelerated development when with the Dolphins that caught the eye of Adrian Dodoro and the rest of the Bombers' recruiting staff.

Though Van Unen's arrival at Essendon has received less fan fare than Kommer's, he is determined to leave his own mark.

"Of course moving to a new club, you've sort of got to find your feet," Van Unen said.

"Adjusting to the new level has been a little bit tougher than what I sort of thought it would be."

The full-time training regimen has also taken some getting used to, with training demands significantly increased when compared to last year's VFL commitments.

"The intensity is definitely a jump up, but it's more about backing it up day after day, which I'm still getting used to," Van Unen said.

Van Unen's approach to football is simple this year.

"I just want to work hard on my footy and just learn a lot," he said.

"I want to grow as a person, and as a footballer, and add a few more strings to my bow."

Being 'mature age' recruits – even though they are still yet to reach their football peak – the expectation is that Van Unen and Kommer can make an impact straight away.

"I'm a little bit up to speed, probably because I've played a little more at this level than some of the other young boys have so I'm sort of used to it," he said.

"It's not a given right that you're ahead of these blokes (younger teammates), but I think they (the club) do expect you to be a little ahead."

Follow reporter Ben Guthrie on Twitter: @AFL_BenGuthrie
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs