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Opinion

Where is the best football factory in Victoria? Part 3

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Roar Rookie
25th November, 2019
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After Part 1 and Part 2, in Part 3 of this series, we look at the squads representing the other four country NAB League programs.

The AFL’s commitment to local football in rural Victoria has become quite a contentious issue, and these teams underline how important the country is to the elite competition.

Murray Bushrangers
B: Shaun Atley (North Melbourne), Tom Clurey (Port Adelaide), Taylor Duryea (Western Bulldogs)
HB: Jack Crisp (Collingwood), Caleb Marchbank (Carlton), Dougal Howard (St Kilda)
C: Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood), Tom Rockliff (Port Adelaide), Will Brodie (Gold Coast)
HF: Jarman Impey (Hawthorn), Sam Reid (Sydney), Jy Simpkin (North Melbourne)
F: Matt Taberner (Fremantle), Josh Schache (Western Bulldogs), Charlie Spargo (Melbourne)
Foll: Ben McEvoy (Hawthorn), Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne), Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)
Int: Esava Ratugolea (Geelong), Daniel Howe (Hawthorn), Anthony Miles (Gold Coast), Ben Paton (St Kilda)

This Murray squad is a difficult one to make a verdict on. It was not exactly painless to find a sold list of 22 players.

There are several players who aren’t consistently in the best 22 for their AFL clubs. The team also includes a couple of players who had significant injury setbacks in 2019, meaning that their selection may also account for their form in 2018.

One area that this team thrives on is its solid youth, a credit to the Murray teams of recent years. This team is also one of the few teams with a spoiled selection of talls, which is why Esava Ratugolea is selected on the bench as the back-up ruckman to Ben McEvoy.

The tall forward bounty is also the thinking behind Jarman Impey’s placement as a forward, adding a more traditional structure to the Murray forward line. Jack Ziebell and Clayton Oliver form a hard-nosed midfield combination.

Jack Ziebell North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Greater Western Victoria Rebels
B: Martin Gleeson (Essendon), James Frawley (Hawthorn), David Astbury (Richmond)
HB: Jake Lloyd (Sydney), Oscar McDonald (Melbourne), Jordan Roughead (Collingwood)
C: Willem Drew (Port Adelaide), Seb Ross (St Kilda), Jacob Hopper (GWS)
HF: Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane), Tom McDonald (Melbourne), Nick Hind (St Kilda)
F: Dan Butler (St Kilda), Jeremy Cameron (GWS), Daniel Rioli (Richmond)
Foll: Rowan Marshall (St Kilda), Brad Crouch (Adelaide), Matt Crouch (Adelaide)
Int: Darcy Tucker (Fremantle), Nathan Brown (St Kilda), Jarrod Berry (Brisbane), Flynn Appleby (Collingwood)

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The Ballarat region has certainly become more of a development area in recent years for the AFL and particularly the Western Bulldogs.

Players like Rowan Marshall and Hugh McCluggage might be the keys to developing an effective football frontier for western Victoria. But that is still years away.

The players that Greater Western Victoria/North Ballarat have produced for today’s AFL teams certainly include some stars. The positioning of most players is adequate to where they play in the AFL.

However, they are another development program that is reasonably short in draft numbers. While the side is still one of the strongest, set-ups like the selected back six might not be appropriate in an actual AFL game. Again though, the talent of this team would make it one of the strongest of the selected squads.

Gippsland Power
B: Sam Docherty (Carlton), Ben McKay (North Melbourne), Changkuoth Jiath (Hawthorn)
HB: Xavier Duursma (Port Adelaide), Sam Skinner (Brisbane), Callum Porter (Western Bulldogs)
C: Ben Ainsworth (Gold Coast), Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs), Kyle Dunkley (Melbourne)
HF: Noah Gown (Essendon), Tim Membrey (St Kilda), Tom Papley (Sydney)
F: Anthony Mcdonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon), Harry Mckay (Carlton), Irving Mosquito (Essendon)
Foll: Nathan Vardy (West Coast), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Dyson Heppell (Essendon)
Int: None

There are only 18 players eligible for selection in the Gippsland Power squad. Although, a centre line of Scott Pendlebury, Dyson Heppell and Josh Dunkley is not the worst problem in the world.

The back line is supposedly where this squad would be exposed. Young gun Xavier Duursma played 20 games this year, albeit sometimes in the forward line. However, the only other defenders with senior games this year were Ben McKay (three) and Changkuoth Jiath (two).

On a side note, Sam Skinner was yet another Lion selected for one of these squads despite being recently delisted. However, at this stage Brisbane have committed to retain them through the upcoming draft. Given that Gippsland can’t field a full side as is, I have given Sam Skinner the benefit of the doubt and selected him at centre half back.

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Bendigo Pioneers
B: Kobe Mutch (Essendon), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne), Joe Atley (Port Adelaide)
HB: Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (Richmond), Tom Cole (West Coast), Jye Caldwell (GWS)
C: None, Ollie Wines (Port Adelaide), None
HF: Brett Daniels (GWS), Jake Stringer (Essendon), Lochie O’Brien (Carlton)
F: Kane Farrell (Port Adelaide), Dustin Martin (Richmond), Fergus Greene (Western Bulldogs)
Foll: Jarrod Brander (West Coast), Paddy Dow (Carlton), Joel Selwood (Geelong)
Int: None

We have only 16 players to choose from in the Bendigo Pioneers team. So the structure follows the AFLW rules of no wings. This effectively leaves just three midfield slots, which is a problem since eight of the listed players are predominantly midfielders. This includes both back pockets.

Jarrod Brander is designated as ruckman, which leaves Dustin Martin as the key forward. Given that he plays the isolated one-on-one forward role at Richmond fairly regularly, this is not a bad substitution considering there are effectively no key forwards in the selected forward line.

However, the mismatches in the back line render it a definite weakness, much like the Gippsland team.