Ryley Sanders marks the ball during the Western Bulldogs' match simulation against Hawthorn on February 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has declared draftee Ryley Sanders the best first-year player he has seen walk into the Whitten Oval.

The 19-year-old midfielder is almost certain to make his debut in the Bulldogs' round one match against Melbourne on Sunday after starring in two pre-season outings.

Beveridge admitted he had been surprised with how quickly Sanders had adapted to life as an AFL player.

"In a significant way, he's well ahead of any first-year players that I've ever seen come through our football club," Beveridge said on Tuesday.

"It's a pleasant surprise because (Bulldogs recruiting manager) Sam (Power) worked really hard in negotiations to get us in a good position to have the opportunity to possibly bring Ryley in.

"To pull that off was a bit of a coup for us. We feel he's got a really bright future."


It is significant praise considering Beveridge is in his 10th season as coach and the club has drafted the likes of Caleb Daniel, Tim English, Aaron Naughton and Bailey Smith during his tenure.

The 53-year-old has been hesitant to pump up young players in the past if he doesn't feel they are ready for the attention.

Beveridge was famously protective of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan during the No.1 draft pick's first two seasons as he struggled to nail down a regular spot.

"(Sanders) dots his i's and crosses his t's, they're some of the things you don't see," Beveridge said.

"But rest assured, he's extremely diligent."

Experienced midfielder Jack Macrae is a "bit behind" in his recovery from a hamstring strain.

The three-time All-Australian is unlikely to be fit to take on the Demons at the MCG.

"We'll consider Jack as we always will because of his experience and what he's been able to do over the journey," Beveridge said.

"But if we feel he's not quite ready due to what his preparation has been in recent times, he more than likely won't be in the team."