2022 NAB League season preview: Gippsland Power

THE 2022 NAB League Boys season is set to kick off at the start of April, with genuine excitement surrounding the latest crop of AFL Draft prospects. The 13 full-time regions are again set to compete in Australia’s most prolific talent pathway, and we preview each squad as season proper approaches. Next up, the Gippsland Power.

“We’re really happy,” said Gippsland Power talent operations lead Scott McDougal on the region’s preseason to date. “We’re back to something nearing what we used to do with our five satellites. The boys started off with one session a week and then swapped pre-Christmas with the boys having two (sessions a week), and the girls having in-season training.”

The Power boast five players in the 2022 Vic Country talent hub; defender Jonti Schuback, ruck Harvey Howe, small forward Jacob Konstanty, bottom-aged key forward Archer Reid and bottom-aged utility Zane Duursma, who is also in the National Academy.

“They’re flying,” McDougal said of Gippsland’s Country hub members. “Jonti’s a really good user of the footy, and if we can use his skills coming out of the backline that’ll be a plus in his book. Zane’s going to have to learn to play forward and back, because that’ll be his role. We know he’s a talent inside 50, he takes good marks and kicks goals, but with his running ability we need to showcase that.

“You’ve got ‘Arch’, he’s 201cm. His two other brothers (Kyle and Zach) were All-Australian Under 18 defenders, the difference between them is that Archer must’ve been the kid they were kicking it to, because he’s got all the traits to be a forward. We’re really happy with how he’s progressing, he’s got a really good football IQ.”

Duursma’s AFL Academy selection also saw him spend time training with Hawthorn over the summer. He must have proven a lucky charm, with the Hawks starting their AFL campaign 2-0. McDougal said the experience gave the leading bottom-age prospect a taste of what it takes at the top level.

“It’s a great experience,” he said. “They go off and spend a week with these guys, and they realise how hard they work and how hard they train, so a little bit of that rubs off on them, and that’s why we do it, give them that experience of what an AFL lifestyle looks like.”

Whilst the Power have a few 19-year-olds returning to the club, McDougal is not yet sure how much they will feature at NAB League level, with a few performing well at VFL clubs over the summer.

Mitchell Moschetti has been playing at Carlton, and Hawthorn is really happy with Max Walton and his output in a few practice matches. We’re hoping we’ll see them early in the year, but if they’re playing VFL footy that’ll be great for them too. “

Lachlan Rathjen is an elite athlete, I think he won the sprint last year and was right up there in the agility. He was playing some pretty good football for us at the end of last year after overcoming a few injuries, so if he gets a good run at it there might be some interest in him.”

Midfielder Bailey Humphrey was another prospect named by McDougal as a possible breakout contender after missing out on the Vic Country hub selection, having also trialled for the Under 17 squad last year.

“I think they’ve missed one in Humphries,” he said. “He played in the Under 17 trials a week after we played the Gippsland Under 17 game and he suffered a bit of an adductor injury. He started that trial game off really well but fell away a little bit, and that was all due to his hip seizing up. He’s come on leaps and bounds in his leadership and his work rate around the club, I think the other guys have seen that as something to aspire to so he’ll jump out.”

Gippsland will kick off its 2022 NAB League season on April 2, taking on the Murray Bushrangers at Linen House Centre in Seaford at 3:00pm. It is one of five fixtures on the league’s opening day.

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