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Zak Jones' breath of fresh air

SwansTV: Zak Jones on debut Watch some highlights from Zak Jones' first game of footy
Zak Jones of the Swans looks on with a torn jumper during the 2014 AFL Round 14 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Sydney Swans at the MCG, Melbourne on June 20, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Zak Jones after getting amongst it for the Swans on debut
SYDNEY Swans debutant Zak Jones earned the praise of his coach, his teammates and his proud brother on Friday night, playing an important role in his team's 11-point win over Richmond at the MCG.

Starting as the substitute, Jones was injected into the match as a replacement for injured defender Rhyce Shaw early in the third quarter, and he struggled to control his breathing as he stepped onto the ground.

After finding his feet, he went on to win nine possessions and lay six tackles across half-back, showing poise when he had the ball and ferocity when it was in his vicinity.

"It was pretty scary to take that first step, I was just trying to control my breathing," Jones said in the rooms after the game.  

"[Waiting as the sub] is not my thing, but I'll take whatever really. It's a debut and I want to play AFL.

"It was really good to get that win in a tough game where we had to grind it out. It was unreal.

"I love the contested situations and the fact you have to get in there and grind your way out."

Jones was told he would make his debut on Tuesday last week and said mentor Shaw had helped him in the build-up to Friday's match.

Ironically he replaced Shaw, who rolled his left ankle but was confident there was no serious damage.  

"When I heard he was getting subbed out I was pretty devastated for him, but at the same time I was pretty happy I was getting a game … hopefully he's all right," Jones said.

"He's always been there for me to talk to and I love the fact he's always helping me out and guiding me in the right direction."

Jones also received advice from his older brother ahead of Friday's debut, with Nathan telling him to "play it simple and do your role. Don't try and do anything extra special".

The Melbourne star was part of a family contingent of more than 25 people on Friday night to watch the 19-year-old, who was recruited with pick No.15 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft.  

"I was pretty excited and pretty proud," Nathan said.  

"He came on and took a little bit to find his feet, but in the end he was cracking in and playing naturally, how I've seen him play over the last few years.

"He got in there and mixed it with the bigger boys and laid a few tackles, and he ended up getting his hands on the footy in the last quarter, so I think he'll be pretty excited.

"We're really excited as a family and I'm really proud of him. It was really positive."

Coach John Longmire said Jones had been recruited with an eye to eventually replacing senior players across half-back.

"We looked at that succession planning, I guess," the coach said.

"He's extremely hard and he can play down back, small defence, which is probably one of the reasons we looked at him.

"He knows what AFL footy is about. He's got a brother who's one of the terrific players at AFL level.

"I just thought he was really good tonight, I was really pleased."

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