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Kaiden becoming a reliable Brand

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Ben Griffiths of the Tigers and Kaiden Brand of the Hawks compete for the ball during the 2016 AFL Round 18 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 24, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Key defender Kaiden Brand is starting to look at home in Hawthorrn's back six.

AFTER a year out of football, key defender Kaiden Brand is starting to look right at home at AFL level.

Dual shoulder reconstructions saw the 22-year-old miss all of 2015.

But the fourth-year Hawk has been making up for lost time ever since, making his AFL debut against Richmond and collecting an equal-career best 18 disposals against the same opponent in last week’s win against the same opponent.

With seven senior games now under his belt, Brand believes he is growing as a player and connecting better with his fellow defenders.

“The way we gel certainly gets better with each game we play together,” Brand told hawthornfc.com.au.

“I’m getting more confident each week.

“Obviously missing last year it took a while to get that continuity in my footy, but now I think with a few games under my belt that I’m starting to get that.

“I hope I can keep improving and keep helping the team.”

With the likes of Josh Gibson, James Frawley and in past, Brian Lake, holding down key position spots, it hasn’t been an easy defence to break into.

But now as a member of a back six that also features the likes of Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne and a handful of other premiership stars, Brand is confident he is fitting in and able to contribute.

“I’ve just got to keep backing myself in and doing what I’ve got to do for the team. It’s all about hopefully keep helping the team get the job done,” he said.

“As a unit we’re starting to gel pretty well – it’s pretty important at this time of year to be doing that, so I think we’re putting ourselves in a good position.”

Brand hasn’t been the only young Hawk to feature in Hawthorn’s defence this season – with plenty of players competing for spots.

Daniel Howe and Angus Litherland have also featured on a number of occasions, James Sicily and Tim O’Brien have also spent time down back, while the likes of Kurt Heatherley and Teia Miles continue to push for an AFL debut with strong performances at VFL level.

Finals are just around the corner, and the weekend’s win against the Tigers certainly puts the Hawks in a strong spot with Brand hoping he and the team can continue to build consistency ahead of September.

“We’re two games clear on the ladder (after that win) and it certainly puts us in a good position going forward,” Brand said.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs