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Salem's lot for new Demon on debut

Melbourne players celebrate a goal with Christian Salem during the 2014 AFL round 06 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Sydney Swans at the MCG, Melbourne on April 26, 2014. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Christian Salem is swamped by teammates after kicking hs first AFL goal
WHEN Melbourne's Christian Salem found out he was to make his debut against the Sydney Swans on Saturday night, the Demons ticketing department supplied him with 30 tickets for family and friends.

Salem's extended family – all 30 of them – were on hand to see him play his first game in the red and the blue, initialy donning the sub's vest, and then cheering loudly and proudly when he kicked his first AFL goal on the MCG in the final term.

Salem's father Alex, his mother Mary, brothers Andre and James and sister Jen were all in the rooms after the game, showing their support like they always have at Christian's football games.

"There's about 30 of them. I couldn't do without them. They've been with me the whole journey and they were the first people I told about making my debut," Salem told AFL.com.au.

After being drafted with pick No. 9 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, the 18-year-old was forced to wait his turn. Coach Paul Roos was adamant Salem and the club's younger players were to earn their spots.

A thyroid problem that forced him to miss a large chunk of the pre-Christmas training period hampered his start, but having to be patient was something Salem appreciated.

"The coaching staff have a lot of experience and I have full faith in them. I just take it as it comes, whatever they throw at me, I try to handle," Salem said.

A 32-possession, best afield performance in the VFL the previous week was too difficult for Roos and the club's coaching staff to ignore.

"It's been really important for Christian that he's worked extremely hard to get into the team," Roos said.

"We're no longer going to hand games to young players."

When Salem replaced Neville Jetta in the third quarter against the Swans, he underwent a baptism of fire. Opposed to Dan Hannebery, Salem lost his man in traffic as the star Swan charged forward unattended.

After witnessing the moment, Roos sent out the runner with the message, "Welcome to AFL football, son".

Later in the game, though, Salem redeemed himself with a clever snap around the body to record his first goal, prompting his Demons teammates to come from everywhere to congratulate him.

"It was great. Looking back on it now, I should've given off the handball. But having all the boys around me lifted me that extra bit," he said.

The Demons were fond of Salem almost as soon as they laid eyes on him. They loved his poise in traffic and the way he could dictate play, using his pinpoint left boot to hit short and long targets.

Those traits will continue to emerge with more AFL experience, but, for now, Roos was content with his decision to unleash the highly touted youngster.

"It showed tonight (Saturday) - he looked ready and he made a contribution," Roos said.

Twitter: @AFL_BenGuthrie