AS the saying goes, the best things in life don’t come easy.

That’s certainly been the case for Hawthorn’s Kaiden Brand, as he prepares to finally make his AFL debut, against Richmond.

The 22-year-old will don the brown and gold for the first time on Friday night, in his fourth year at the club.

“It’s very exciting – it’s been a long time coming,” Brand said.

“I’m looking forward to just getting out there and playing my role for the team, hopefully getting it done and getting the win.”

Brand spent his first year at Hawthorn, in 2013, predominantly in Box Hill’s development side, before pushing up to senior VFL ranks the following year.

But in 2015, injury struck, with surgery on both shoulders ruling the 198-centimetre key defender out of action for the entire year.

“It was a long 12 months out of the game,” Brand said at the start of 2016 in a pre-season interview.

“It was very frustrating. At the start, it all happened pretty quickly so I didn’t have time to process it, but as the year went on it got pretty frustrating to not be able to be a part of everything with all the boys.”

A full pre-season had the West Adelaide product raring to go for 2016, and after a taste of NAB Challenge action, Brand delivered at VFL level, earning his maiden senior opportunity.

It was Alastair Clarkson who broke the news to him, that he would be the 903rd player to represent Hawthorn.

“Clarko rang me yesterday on the day off, so it was pretty exciting. I got straight on the phone to Mum and Dad,” Brand said.

“It’s been a long journey, a couple of injuries injuries along the way, but I’m feeling fresh now and I’m ready to go.”

While Brand’s debut has been a long time in the making, he’s focused on playing his role for the team.

He replaces fellow key defender James Frawley, slotting into the back six alongside premiership stars including Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson and Ben Stratton for a big match against a big club at the home of football.

It’s going to be a big game, so I’m looking forward to getting out there, absorbing it all and hopefully getting the job done,” Brand said.