Gleeson impresses as Dons defender

ESSENDON defender Martin Gleeson has staked his claim for an AFL debut but is focused solely on improvement.

The Koroit export gathered 16 disposals across half-back in the Bombers’ 25-point pre-season challenge loss to Port Adelaide at Docklands on Tuesday night.

Gleeson’s performance consolidated his impressive display against Gold Coast a week earlier.

The second-year Bomber, whose first season was cut short by a shoulder injury, said while he’d love to debut soon, it wasn’t a priority.

“I am still young. I just want to keep getting better and improving every week,” Gleeson told Bomber TV.

“I need to keep getting my body stronger so I’d love to (debut early) but if it doesn’t happen it’s not the end of the world and I will keep working.”

Gleeson, 19, was drafted from North Ballarat Rebels as a defender.

He said he felt settled playing off half-back.

“I got switched to defence — I was a forward last year,” he said of his first year at the club.

“I have been practising my one-on-ones, getting back engaging my man and my contested work, too, so just trying to get better at that.”

“Hurls (Michael Hurley) has been awesome down there. He gives you a lot of confidence and a lot of instruction too.”

Gleeson, who played alongside Cobden brothers Jackson and Zach Merrett, said he’d recovered well from his shoulder surgery.

“It’s been good. I sort of got back into it after Christmas and haven’t missed a beat so it’s been good training.

“All the boys have been encouraging me to run off and get the ball in my hands so it’s been good.”

Meanwhile, Geelong rookie Nick Bourke is in line to make his pre-season debut.

The Kolora-Noorat export was yesterday named in the Cats’ 29-man squad for their clash against Melbourne in Alice Springs tomorrow night.

Teams must be trimmed to 26 players 90 minutes before the start of play.

Bourke, 19, landed at Geelong via last year’s rookie draft.

The tall wingman has impressed in his first pre-season and was one of three draftees named in the Cats’ line-up, along with defender Kade Kolodjashnij and strong-bodied midfielder Jarrad Jansen.

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