Fewer than average top age players have been selected in a young 40-strong Gippsland Power list set to kick off its TAC cup campaign against Dandenong in Traralgon on Saturday.
With just a handful of 18 and 19 year-olds on deck this season it’s a fresh faced outfit coming out of Morwell.
Head coach Leigh Brown said the final side, which includes eight Latrobe Valley representatives, was well balanced despite its relative inexperience at the elite under 18 level.
“It’s a good mix and it’s pretty well balanced; we had some guys test very well,” Brown said.
Koo Wee Rup’s Travis Bindley led testing this month with a 16.02 beep test, while Ben Ainsworth was among the leaders in agility and sprints.
Five returning overage players – Josh Patullo, Deven Costigan, Tate Marsh, Kieren Byers and Ryan Hearn – will add experience to the squad, to be captained by AFL Academy Level Two member Ainsworth.
The side will also feature a couple of top age players from outside the Power’s development system, including Julian Patterson (Leongatha) and Sean Masterton (Ellinbank), following the lead of 2015 draftees Ben and Harry McKay.
Morwell local Changkuoth Jiath will have limited game time at the Power this season due to school football commitments but is among the most exciting prospects emerging from the Valley.
After a long pre-season, including January altitude training at Mount Hotham and a Trafalgar Summit camp last weekend, Brown said the boys were itching to get out on the park.
The coach said form was peaking at the right time, with the Power’s best performance coming in its final practice match, but would not make predictions about ladder position.
“It’s hard to tell where we’ll finish. Our best is good enough to compete with any side,” Brown said.
“We’re a pretty young side; the boys are excited and they just want to get out there.”
Will Leslie and Kade Renooy will act as vice captains and Ainsworth’s deputies.
Brown said Ainsworth was a natural selection as skipper given the example he set on and off field.
“He’s a leader not only in his play but his recovery as well – he leads the way off-field too,” Brown said.
“He’s coming off a wrist injury but he played the last practice match, he’s been a great help developing the boys with his experience from the Academy as well.”
The Power’s first round match has been moved from Morwell to Traralgon Recreation Reserve to accommodate the central Gippsland cricket final on Saturday.
Gippsland Power’s youth girls academy side will contest the Youth Girls Challenge first consolation final against Bendigo at Frankston on Monday.
The Power overcame Murray Bushrangers 6.6 (42) to 4.2 (26) in its fourth and final match of the competition at the weekend.
Sandringham will face Dandenong in the YGC grand final.