Cream of the country crop

THE cream of the country footy crop will converge on the Latrobe Valley next week for the first edition of the V/Line Cup and Subway Shield outside of Melbourne.

AFL Victoria awarded the prestigious youth boys and girls tournaments to the region for 2015 and 2016 last November, with matches to be staged at Moe, Morwell and Traralgon from Monday to Thursday.

Gippsland Power will field two teams in the under 15 boys V/Line Cup and a youth girls outfit in the Subway Shield, looking to go one better than its runner-up finish on debut in 2014.

Power talent manager Peter Francis said the amalgamation of previous regional entities with existing TAC Cup franchises would raise the standard of the representative carnival.

“It’s the first time it’s truly integrated with the TAC Cup,” Francis said.

“You’ve got the Falcons, the Pioneers and the Rebels… it’s the best of the best now with division one and division two teams like we’ve been for some years.

“It’s going to be a little bit harder for our guys in some ways because obviously the best of the best come together, but it’ll be a really great competition and a good standard of football to watch.”

The carnival acts as the jumping off point for the Gippsland Power program for under 14 and 15 talent in the region, looking for selection in the club’s under 16 team.

“It’s our first touch with them and it’s the actual start of the program. So under 15 then into the under 16s and then the TAC team,” Francis said.

“It’s really a development program in a lot of ways… they’re playing against players as good if not better than them all the time now, also it leads into our under 16s for next year.”

More than 20 teams will converge on the Valley for the four-day tournament.