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Melbourne Football Club

Neal-Bullen to debut against Saints

Alex Neal-Bullen in action during the Melbourne Demons training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne on April 28, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Alex Neal-Bullen in action during the Melbourne Demons training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne on April 28, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)

FIRST year player Alex Neal-Bullen will make his debut against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium this Sunday.

Following a string of good performances at VFL level, the tough inside midfielder earned a call-up off the back of a 34-possession game, which included 20 contested possessions, in Casey’s win over Collingwood.

Neal-Bullen said he was “honoured” to play his first game for Melbourne.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity I’ve been given,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“It doesn’t feel too real at the moment and probably won’t until I’m running out of the race.

“The boys have been really good and I’m looking forward to running out there.”

Manager of football operations Josh Mahoney said Neal-Bullen had worked hard for his opportunity, after a knee cap injury restricted his start to the season.

“Alex had a couple of setbacks over preseason with a knee cap injury,” Mahoney said.

“But since he’s returned to playing his form has steadily improved and the style of play he’s been playing through the midfield is exactly what we’ve been looking for.

“Certainly on the weekend he played the right way and used the ball well and was important in the win against Collingwood.”

Drafted at pick 40 in the 2014 AFL National Draft, Neal-Bullen made his mark at SANFL side Glenelg as a hard-nosed midfielder.

Aside from his work on the field, Mahoney said Neal-Bullen had also impressed with his professionalism in his first year at the club.

“Alex is an inside midfielder, he’s very clean around stoppages and tackles strongly and he’s a very good runner and a lot of those skills suit the modern requirements for an AFL midfielder,” Mahoney said.

“Alex is already a very professional AFL player, he’s very coachable and listens intently to coaching instructions which is going to allow him to continually improve as a player.”

Neal-Bullen initially returned from injury through the VFL Development League and played two games at the level before playing five VFL senior games for Casey.

“I was just hoping to play some consistent footy down in the VFL level and earn the respect of the coaches after the injury I got in the pre-season,” he said.

“But to be given the opportunity to represent the Dees this Sunday against the Saints is a huge privilege and I’ll be really honoured when I run out there in the guernsey.”

Having already watched close friend and fellow South Australian Billy Stretch debut in round six, Neal-Bullen said he was looking forward to having his family and friends travel to Melbourne for the game.

 “The family’s coming over for it and a few other friends and family so I’ll have a bit of a crew down there hopefully on Sunday to cheer me on, which will be good,” Neal-Bullen said.

“[I want to] just soak it up but play my normal footy and not go away from what my strengths are and just enjoy it and play my role for the team.”