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Rookie to riches: Wanganeen's rise

Derick Wanganeen ready for long awaited debut Derick Wanganeen speaks to HawksTV about making his debut in Hawthorn's upcoming Round 1 clash against the Lions on Saturday
Derick Wanganeen of the Hawks in action during the 2014 practice match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at Casey Fields, Melbourne on March 08, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Derick Wanganeen in action during a practice match against Melbourne.

ASSISTANT Coach Luke Beveridge says Derick Wanganeen’s improvement from 2013 to 2014 has been immense, as the 23 year old prepares to make his AFL debut in Saturday’s clash against Brisbane.

Wanganeen earned his debut after an impressive pre-season and NAB Challenge series, in which his hardness and dependability as a small defender shone.

He was upgraded onto the primary list in place of the injured Brendan Whitecross on Wednesday and then named in the Hawthorn side to take on Brisbane on Thursday night.

It has been a long time coming for the South Australian, who spent three seasons on the rookie list before be delisted and then re-rookied at the end of last year.

Beveridge, who is in charge of the Hawks’ defence again this season says the Wanganeen story is one of perseverance.

“I’ve had more to do with him over the pre-season and leading into this year than I did last year – his progression has been quite accelerated,” Beveridge, who is in charge of the Hawks defence told

“It’s a great story of persistence because he’s been at the Club for a while.

“He’s found some continuity in his performances and some real consistency. He’s been buoyed by that and worked extremely hard and had a solid and consistently outstanding pre-season, which has helped him build a really strong fitness base and now he’s ready to play.

“He’s has a really good NAB series and has earned his spot in a pretty strong Hawthorn side.”

Originally groomed as a quick small forward, Wanagneen was tried in defence by former Box Hill Coach Damian Carroll in the middle of last season with great success.

Since the move, Wanganeen has blossomed as his foot skills, ability to read the play and line-breaking run have been welcome additions to the depth of Hawthorn’s defence.

“He’s got a really good balance of playing in the different phases of the game. His strong in close with his defensive stuff – his tackling strength and his hardness belies his size and offensively, he uses the ball really creatively,” Beveridge said.

“He has got good lateral movement, he’s quick and competes well in the air for a smaller defender.

“I’ve been really impressed with how rounded he is in his game, so that gives us some confidence that he’ll be able to perform the defender role with some real strength.”

Personally, Wanganeen says he has enjoyed his time as a small defender and can't wait to run out for the Hawks for the first time.

"I’ve enjoyed my time down back and I’ve played some pretty good footy down there," he told

"I feel privileged. This is a great club and I’m happy to pull on the guernsey this weekend.”

But it is more his competitiveness and willingness to work as part of a team that Beveridge sees his real value.

“His speed helps him with his one-on-ones and he competes really well at ground level,” he said.

“He’s a dogged and determined young man, so he’s got a lot of pride and doesn’t like being beaten – that shines out when you see him really fight for the ball in a one-on-one situation and his temperament really helps him there.

“It’s pretty rare to see him blatantly beaten one-on-one because he has been able to consistently compete like that, which gives the coaches confidence that he’s going to be a good AFL player.”

Wanganeen will line up in Hawthorn’s backline alongside experienced players like Captain Luke Hodge, best and fairest winner Josh Gibson, premiership players Grant Birchall and Shaun Burgoyne.

Beveridge says having that experience around him will help settle his nerves ahead of his AFL debut but is confident he won’t be overawed by the occasion.

“I think he’ll go really well,” he said. “He’s got some good players and experience around him that’ll help him, but if his NAB series is anything to go by, I don’t think anything is going to change too much.

“Yes, it’s Round 1 of the AFL season but if he goes about his work as he has been, he’ll put in a good performance.”

Wanganeen is one of three Hawks who'll debut on Saturday, joining fellow AFL debutant Tim O'Brien and Club debutant, Ben McEvoy.