Cats' teen in for debut

Saturday, June 8

CHARLIE Gardiner will make his AFL debut tomorrow as part of an apparent teenage rotation policy that saw Gary Ablett junior the latest omission.

Gardiner, 18, and Aaron Lord have been called into Geelong's final squad to tackle Carlton at Colonial Stadium while Brenton Sanderson, suffering a calf injury, will join Ablett on the sidelines.

Cameron Mooney and James Rahilly have been named emergencies.

The Blues have been boosted by the inclusion of deputy vice-captain Adrian Hickmott and Andrew Merrington, while Ian Prendergast and Ang Christou have been sent back to the VFL side.

Hickmott, a former Cat, has missed the past five weeks with a fractured right forearm.

Gardiner is the latest kitten to be given an opportunity after James Bartel, Ablett and James Kelly have formed a rotation.

Gardiner, the captain of Geelong Grammar's 2000 first 18, has been consistent in the VFL to date after being the 23rd pick in the 2001 AFL national draft.

His rise to AFL football created headlines last year after his mother, 55, passed away after a battle with cancer.

At the time, the first-year Melbourne University law student had surprised even himself by winning all-Australian Under-18 selection after scraping into the Victorian Metropolitan squad through his form with the Sandringham Dragons.

In an interview last year, he described football as an itch that had suddenly become a serious affliction.

But he had been told he was ``not tall enough'' and ``not a brilliant athlete''.

He believed he was destined for the Victorian Amateur Football League.

But a ticket to the Dragons saw his stocks rise. Tomorrow he reaches a footy dream.