After an injury setback for Ben Stratton meant there was a spot in Hawthorn’s Round 15 side up for grabs, young defender Kurt Heatherley grabbed the opportunity with both hands. 

The Kiwi defender had played in just two losing sides (most recently against Collingwood in Round 9) before experiencing the exhilaration of an AFL win on Sunday afternoon. 

“It feels amazing, ‘ey,” Heatherley said post-match, in typical relaxed ‘Kiwi’ fashion. 

“I was actually on my way to Preston to play with Box Hill when I got the call from Jase to turn around and prepare to come and play with the AFL side. 

“So it’s been a really long day, but definitely a very enjoyable one.”

The 22-year-old says the nature of his selection helped to settle the nerves of playing in just his third AFL game.

“I guess it was good [to be a late inclusion] because I didn’t have to think about it all night, so I wasn’t as nervous.”

Hawthorn fielded a relatively inexperienced backline, with Heatherley, Kaiden Brand, Ryan Burton and Blake Hardwick combining for just 66 career games between them.

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However, with premiership duo Luke Hodge (298 games) and Grant Birchall (245) rounding out the back six, the youngsters still had experienced heads to turn to.

“It makes our job a bit easier down in defence when you’ve got the likes of Hodgey and Birch and those with plenty of experience helping all us young boys out,” said Heatherley. 

“They’ve been there, done that before, so they’re always happy to provide instruction and help make us younger guys a little bit better.”

Finishing the game with a career high 15 disposals, Heatherley is gaining confidence with each game he plays.

“Hopefully I can string a few games together now and continue to improve my skills.”

Read: Match report Round 15