HAWTHORN mid-season recruit Jai Newcombe will make his AFL debut against Sydney on Friday night.
Coach Alastair Clarkson confirmed the No.2 pick in Wednesday's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft would play his first senior game after impressive performances for Box Hill in the first half of the VFL season.
The midfielder has averaged 23 disposals and seven tackles in six games for Box Hill under Sam Mitchell.
Head of Football Rob McCartney said Newcombe will bring plenty of grunt to the team.
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"We've seen a lot of Jai at Box Hill, and there's been plenty to like," he said.
"Before this weekend we weren't able to promote him into our senior side, but he's been in the sort of form that had he been on our list, he probably would have played earlier."
Newcombe will be Hawthorn's sixth debutant in 2021.
Clarkson, meanwhile, plans on seeing out his contract to coach Hawthorn in 2022, lamenting the "instability" caused throughout the AFL by Nathan Buckley's mid-season departure from Collingwood.
Four-time premiership mentor Clarkson loomed as an obvious candidate for the Magpies to headhunt after parting ways with club icon Buckley.
But Clarkson, whose name has been linked to vacant coaching jobs throughout the past 10 years, says he is still "invested" in lifting the 17th-placed Hawks back into the premiership mix.
Hawthorn assistant coach Sam Mitchell is another potential contender to replace Buckley.
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A long list of Clarkson's former right-hand men to become head coaches at rival clubs is headed by premiership mentors Damien Hardwick, Adam Simpson and Luke Beveridge.
"Sam is no different to any one of our other (assistant) coaches ... we're grooming all those guys at our club to be senior coaches one day," Clarkson said.
Clarkson, who has coached the Hawks in 379 games since being handed the reins in 2005, was tetchy when talking about himself, Mitchell and Collingwood's vacancy throughout a press conference on Thursday.
"I'm contracted to Hawthorn," Clarkson said, when asked if he could coach the Magpies next season.
"This happens every year, I dare say for the last 10 years.
"Every time there's some sort of movement with a coach, my name is linked to it.
"I haven't moved for 10 years and I dare say I won't be moving this time either.
"My focus is purely on the Hawthorn footy club. I'm still contracted, I want to see this out because of the players we've got here that I've invested in.
"It's always disappointing when these things happen mid-season ... it just causes instability right across the League."
Clarkson spoke in broad terms when asked about former midfielder Mitchell's prospects of joining Collingwood.
"Just because something happens in the outside AFL world doesn't mean we need to respond," he said.
"Our commitment to Sam is to give him the opportunity to coach at Box Hill and learn all the nuances of being a senior coach of your own side, that's what he's been doing at Box Hill.
"Our commitment is we'll help them (assistant coaches) become a senior coach somewhere, whether that is Hawthorn or somewhere else.
"That stands until such time as they're ready and get that opportunity."