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Eagle Hutchings better off for first-up failure

Mark Hutchings in action during a West Coast Eagles training session at UWA Sports Park, Perth. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
West Coast's Mark Hutchings learned plenty from his year-long stint at St Kilda as a rookie
MARK Hutchings feels like he has earned his opportunity to play AFL football, but it has been some time coming.

The 21-year-old is set to make his AFL debut at the Gabba on Saturday for the Eagles, three years after he was first drafted by St Kilda as a rookie.  

The former WA under-18 captain thought he had made it the first time around but he was delisted by after one year without playing a senior game.

It was an experience he now puts into perspective.

"When you are 18, you've played a bit of junior footy and you've got a bit of talent, but you haven't really done anything of note in the bigger picture," he said.

Hutchings moved on quickly from his delisting, returning to WA and joined West Perth for the 2011 WAFL season.

The midfielder averaged 21 disposals in his first year with the Falcons.

In 2012, Hutchings averaged 25 disposals, played state football for WA, won the best and fairest at West Perth, and finished second in the Sandover Medal to Claremont's Kane Mitchell, who has already made his AFL debut for Port Adelaide this season.  

"The two years since coming back from Melbourne have been hard work but you learn a lot about how to play football and a lot about yourself," he said.

Former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos made an interesting observation about young players earning their opportunities in regards to the AFL's two newest clubs.

"The problem with the two expansion teams, and this is nothing against the kids, is that they don't earn a game," Roos said on Fox Footy's On the Couch on Monday night.

The 2005 premiership coach said that players who earn a game develop far quicker than those who do not.

Having been drafted by West Coast with pick 60 last year, Hutchings feels more mature players are in a better position than youngsters straight out of junior footy.

"I just feel definitely better equipped this time around, just through my skills as a footballer, but as a person as well," Hutchings said.

"It's a tough gig.

"Especially when you're 18, no matter how well you feel and think you're going to do all right, there are always those challenges of being away from home, and just the life skills in general."

Although Hutchings never gave up hope, he is surprised at how quickly his opportunity has arisen.

"At this point last year I was just focused on playing well for West Perth. I didn't have any grand plans of playing for the Eagles or anything like that. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind.

"I've definitely learned a lot about myself, about my football, and that chances are very hard to come by.

"You just want to make the most of every opportunity you have."