JOHN Stringer felt a mixture of pride, nerves and excitement as he watched his son Jake make his AFL debut with the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
Jake started as the Bulldogs substitute, before entering the game late in the third quarter of the clash with the Adelaide Crows at AAMI Stadium.
He didn’t look out of place, collecting five possessions and laying two bonecrunching tackles in a little over a quarter of play.
John Stringer made the trip to Adelaide with his wife Donna, son Brad and his girlfriend Emma and Jake’s girlfriend, Abby.
“With what Jake has been through the past two years it made the day a bit more special,’’ John Stringer said yesterday.
“The fact he was substitute took a bit of the excitement out of it, but we were very proud when he ran on to the ground.
“Then we got a bit nervous about how he was going to play, but all things considered he did a good job.
“Jake said he felt comfortable with the pace of the game. He was happy.”
Jake Stringer broke his right leg severely while playing for the Bendigo Pioneers early in the 2011 TAC Cup season.
He missed the remainder of the year and some AFL recruiters had doubts the robust forward would make it back to the form that made him one of the most sought-after juniors in Australia.
The Western Bulldogs kept the faith and selected Stringer with pick five in last year’s AFL national draft.
“He had such a tough run with the broken leg,’’ John Stringer said yesterday.
“Even last year after he had the rod out of his leg in February he was copping a fair bit of criticism about the way he was running.
“There was nothing wrong with his leg, it was just going to take time.
“Even now he’s not coming off the same fitness base as the other kids that got drafted in the top 20.
“They’ve been able to come off two years of running. He’s coming from a long way back.”
A five-goal haul for Williamstown in the VFL a fortnight ago ensured Jake Stringer would make his debut against the Crows.
“In the quarter or so that he played against the Crows he covered 5km,’’ John Stringer said.
“There’s an expectation that forwards should cover 10 to 12km, so after the game Jake went back out on the ground and ran 5km.”
John Stringer said he’s been impressed with the way the Western Bulldogs have looked after his son.
“We couldn’t be happier with the Bulldogs.
“They’ve been up front with where they’re at as a club and the development these kids need.
“It’s not only the way they’ve accepted Jake, but also the way they look after the family.
“They’re a great club.”