Vics go back to school amid Country triple-header treat

IT IS back to school this week for a bunch of Victorian NAB Leaguers, as the APS and AGSV Football seasons get underway. Meanwhile in the elite talent pathway, all six Country regions will partake in an exiting triple-header at Queen Elizabeth Oval on Sunday, while Tasmania takes on the Northern Territory Thunder on neutral ground in Craigieburn.

The four-week mark is typically when private school kids split in the NAB League and over-age prospects make their decision on whether to continue, or take their chances at VFL level. Starting from Round 5, we will also see more under-age talent enter the competition with the introduction of a designated 23rd player for each side.

An early start looms for hosts, Bendigo on Sunday as the Pioneers take on a rampant Gippsland Power outfit at 9:45am. The Pios have put themselves in winning positions without yielding the results, with just two points to show for their efforts thus far. On the other hand, Gippsland is flying at 4-0 as the only undefeated Country region remaining.

The Power lay claim to a bunch of in-form talent across each third, and both regions should be mostly unaffected by school football absentees. Although, after an interrupted preseason, Noah Long again looms as a key out for Bendigo, along with Hugh Hamilton – whose twin brother Cooper makes his AFL debut this weekend – and Xavier College’s Charlie Barnett.

Long’s Geelong Grammar mate Oliver Hollands is another who will move into the APS season, as his Murray Bushrangers take on the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at 12:15pm. The Bushies are sitting pretty at 3-1 after a Round 1 loss, while GWV has a game in hand with two wins on the board in 2022.

The Dandenong Stingrays look likely to miss the most significant personnel of all the Country regions, as they face off against the Geelong Falcons at 2:45pm. On top of Ned Moodie‘s absence, the ‘Rays will lose Mitch Szybkowski and Jaxon Binns to Caulfield Grammar, but a bye for Haileybury College means Harrison Jones remains in the side.

Those changes present an opportunity for Henry Hustwaite to gain more midfield minutes alongside the consistent Taj Campbell-Farrell. They will have their hands full as Falcons skipper Jhye Clark makes his return, having missed his side’s last two wins.

In the day’s outlying NAB League fixture at Highgate Recreation Reserve, the Northern Territory Thunder will take part in their final match for the year. Both sides like putting speed on the ball and can play attractive styles when on their own terms, but the Tassie talls will give them a handy point of difference.

Looking around the nation, there have been a few additions to the West Australian Under 18 squad. Eight fresh faces make it a 34-player squad with more to potentially come as the WAFL Colts and PSA seasons gain some momentum.

A total of four prospects among the group have played at League level, headlined by the state’s leading talent Elijah Hewett. The Swan Districts midfielder faced off against East Perth’s Reuben Ginbey in Round 1, while Peel Thunder ruck Jackson Broadbent got his chance in 2021, and inclusion Steely Green looks a real bolter out of South Fremantle.

Over in South Australia, it seems pick one contender Harry Lemmey will make his League return at the second time of asking. The West Adelaide key forward has been named in attack as the Bloods prepare to face North Adelaide on Saturday. Midfielder Kobe Ryan is another Westies youngster playing up, named in the Reserves this week.

On top of the various other local talent no doubt on their radar, Adelaide Crows fans will also have a keen eye on father-son candidate Max Michalanney, who comes into Norwood’s Reserves side. The AFL Academy member and 2021 state Under 17 MVP last played in Round 3, and is lauded for his sound reading of the play in defence.

Covering the latest rounds of action across the country, Rookie Me Central will release scouting notes on all four NAB League fixtures, as well as notes on featured SANFL and WAFL matches, and player focus pieces on prospects to watch from all competitions next week.

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