IF you were to pick one word to sum up the Bendigo senior interleague squad, balance might be the most fitting descriptor.
The BFNL senior and under-18 teams play the Hampden Football League at Warrnambool tomorrow in the annual AFL Victoria Community Championships, with the senior winner to move to eighth in the statewide rankings.
Ten new faces will don the blue and gold at Reid Oval, with Eaglehawk’s Jonty Neaves named as emergency. The standout feature of the team is its versatility and mix of contested power and outside run.
South Bendigo ruckman Kieran Strachan, Golden Square’s Jake Thrum, Matt Compston and Jayden Burke, Kyneton duo Pat McCarthy and Rhys Magin, Gisborne’s Jack Reaper, and Eaglehawk’s Brodie Collins, Jack Fallon and Neaves are the potential debutants in the squad.
Jack Geary will again lead the league into battle this weekend, just days after being hospitalised with a knee infection.
However, the side was struck a major blow before the final training session on Wednesday night at the QEO, with reigning Derrick Filo Medal winner Andrew Collins ruled out due to injury.
Collins was best afield in last year’s loss to Ballarat and would have been a valuable weapon for third-year coach Brett Fitzpatrick to deploy in the centre or forward of the ball.
“It’s disappointing to lose Andy for sure, he’s just one of those guys who loves interleague footy. But it gives Jack Fallon an opportunity to step up and test himself at the higher level,” Fitzpatrick said.
The mix of inside grunt and outside run in the BFL’s midfield looks to be its strength, with the likes of Adam Baird, Jake Moorhead, Kalan Huntly, Geary and Magin bringing both elements to the contest.
The small forward line includes targets such as Sharp, Antonowicz and McPhee as well as marking options in Burke and the high-flying Hamish Morcom.
“It’s probably by default as much as anything, but we certainly aren’t disappointed with what we’ve got up there,” Fitzpatrick said.
“If anything, that structure might be an asset for us.
“Those guys put their hands up as forward players who are among the best in the competition. What it will mean is that hopefully we can put more pressure on them exiting our forward 50 and create those repeat chances at goal.”
Bendigo has again stocked up with copious run out of defence, with key backs McCarthy, Tyler Miles and Jack Reaper complemented by Codie Price, Miller and Thrum.
“Even if we get a heavy deck, it’s about our ball use and our ability to win it,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I think you find generally teams from south of the divide are a bit more strongly built, especially through the hips, and play a bit closer to the ground.
“We’ll be able to match it there, but we definitely think that our ability to run and use the ball on the outside will play to our strengths.”
The Hampden League had its final training session last night and will again be coached by AFL great Jonathan Brown.
The league will also take an under-18 squad on the road, to be again coached by Jason Stevens.
The BFL side defeated Ballarat last year, and will this year be captained by Gisborne’s Baxter Slater, Golden Square’s Zack Shelton and Strathfieldsaye’s Daniel Clohsey.
Clohsey and Castlemaine’s Jack Chester are holdovers from last year’s victorious squad, while the remaining players are new to the representative level.
The under-18 game starts at noon, with the senior match from 2.30pm at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval. The match will be broadcast by Warrnambool radio station 3YB.
BFNL senior interleague squad
B: Tyler Miles (Eaglehawk), Pat McCarthy (Kyneton), Jake Thrum (Golden Square)
HB: Codie Price (Sandhurst), Jack Reaper (Gisborne), Isaiah Miller (South Bendigo)
C: Adam Baird (Golden Square), Jack Geary (C) (Golden Square), Kalan Huntly (Castlemaine)
HF: Ben McPhee (Eaglehawk), Jayden Burke (Golden Square), Lee Coghlan (Sandhurst)
F: Hamish Morcom (Golden Square), Lachlan Sharp (Strathfieldsaye), Kaiden Antonowicz (South Bendigo)
Fol: Kieran Strachan (South Bendigo), Rhys Magin (Kyneton), Trent Donnan (Strathfieldsaye)
Int: Jonathan Lanyon (Kangaroo Flat), Brodie Collins (Eaglehawk), Jack Fallon (Eaglehawk), Matt Compston (Golden Square), Jake Moorhead (Strathfieldsaye).
Emerg: Jonty Neaves (Eaglehawk)
BFNL U18 interleague squad
Jack Chester (Castlemaine), Jack Thompson (Eaglehawk), Baxter Slater, Liam Spear, Sam McCaskill, Ben Eales (Gisborne), Zack Shelton, Braydon Vaz (Golden Square), Kyle Symons, Mitch Rovers, Brodie Fry, Max Johnson (Kangaroo Flat), Oscar Power, Caleb Fisher (Kyneton), Connor O’Shea, Lachlan Bond (Maryborough), Ben Worme, Angus Dickson, Nathan Murley, Lachy Baker (Sandhurst), Will Allen, Aaron Gundry, Will Tobin (South Bendigo), Daniel Clohsey, Riley Wilson, Logan Dixon, Tyson Webster (Strathfieldsaye)