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Top draftees set to make their mark in opening round

Clayton Oliver impressed for Melbourne during the NAB Challenge - ${keywords}
Clayton Oliver impressed for Melbourne during the NAB Challenge

A SMATTERING of the best young talent in the competition appears set to run out in round one, with as many as seven of last year's top-10 draft picks possible debutants.

It is possible the top five overall picks will play their first game this weekend.

Carlton's No.1 selection Jacob Weitering leads the pack of first-gamers, with the impressive key defender already confirmed to face the Tigers on Thursday night.

No.2 choice Josh Schache and No.3 pick Callum Mills have also already been announced as making their debuts for the Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans respectively this weekend.  

But another four players from last year's top-10 at the NAB AFL Draft are in with a strong shot at stepping out for the first time at the top level, which would be the most in the past five years.

Last year, only three of the first 10 players picked in 2014 made their debuts in round one, while the same number came through in the first round of 2013 following the 2012 draft.

Six players from the top-10 in 2010 made their debut in the opening round of 2011, which is the most of the past five intakes. However, this weekend's matches could see that number eclipsed.

Clayton Oliver's rise has continued through the pre-season, with the bullocking Melbourne midfielder's form in the NAB Challenge showing him to be ready for senior selection.

Essendon's first pick, Darcy Parish, had a slight hamstring niggle after an impressive debut against Carlton in the NAB Challenge, but trained strongly on Wednesday and is in line to make his debut against Gold Coast on Saturday.

"He's a really impressive stoppage player for a guy who probably doesn't have the biggest body at this stage," Parish's teammate Adam Cooney said this week.

"He works really well at stoppages and he's one who is probably going to get an opportunity early on."

The Suns may also have a debutant, with Callum Ah Chee performing better and better with each NAB Challenge outing and offering coach Rodney Eade some class near goal.

Greater Western Sydney's Jacob Hopper is also considered in the mix to play his first AFL game this weekend when the Giants meet Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday.

The abandonment of the substitute's rule has seemingly had little effect on clubs' decisions to blood youngsters, with first-gamer's often starting with the green vest in recent seasons.

Carlton's Harry McKay, chosen at pick No.10, is unavailable with a back injury, Melbourne forward Sam Weideman is still continuing to build his fitness while Bomber Aaron Francis didn't take part in any of the club's pre-season contests.

TOP-10 PICKS TO MAKE THEIR DEBUT IN ROUND ONE THE FOLLOWING YEAR
2014 – 3 players
2013 – 3
2012 – 4
2011 – 6
2010 – 5

LAST YEAR'S TOP-10 NAB AFL DRAFT SELECTIONS
No.1 – Jacob Weitering – Carlton
No.2 – Josh Schache – Brisbane Lions
No.3 – Callum Mills – Sydney Swans
No.4 – Clayton Oliver – Melbourne
No.5 – Darcy Parish – Essendon
No.6 – Aaron Francis – Essendon
No.7 – Jacob Hopper – GWS
No.8 – Callum Ah Chee – Gold Coast
No.9 – Sam Weideman – Melbourne
No.10 – Harry McKay – Carlton