Bear essentials

April 06, 2018

A swag of experience has departed Rochester’s list during summer, but star Nathan Marrone remains. The Tigers’ captain will lead his charges into battle against Shepparton at Deakin Reserve tomorrow.

Shepparton coach Sean Harrap is still looking for a markedly improved performance from his charges tomorrow, despite a 54-point win against rivals Shepparton United on Good Friday.

‘‘A win’s better than a loss in round one, that’s for sure,’’ Harrap said.

‘‘But even though we’ve got a lot to work on and to improve on, I was pretty happy with how it all went.’’

The Bears host a Rochester squad that has had a large amount of changes during the off-season, but Harrap is not ready to underestimate the Tigers.

‘‘From my point of view they’ve lost a lot of experience, which is always hard to replace,’’ Harrap said.

‘‘It looks like they’ve gone with a younger list, which makes them a bit of an unknown, but we’ll just focus more about what we can control.’’

Luke Smith (seven goals) and the returning Rhys O’Sullivan were impressive last week against the Demons — and the fact the duo can dominate matches in multiple positions is a theme that permeates Shepparton’s list.

For Rochester, just how much difference the loss of experience in the likes of Steven Stroobants, Heath Aitken, Elliot Bowen and Sam Brennan will make remains to be seen.

But a massive boost for James Flaherty and his charges is retaining superstar Nathan Marrone.

Marrone, who represented Victoria Country last season among a host of other accolades, initially made his intentions to play VFL clear and was training with Essendon’s squad.

But increased work commitments for the Bendigo-based star scuppered those plans, and upon his return to Moon Oval Marrone was handed the Tigers’ captaincy.

‘‘He’s got a few things to work on leadership-wise, but he has the right attitude and passion for the job, and it’s good to have him around the club again,’’ Flaherty said of his star.

Marrone, along with his deputies James Gledhill and Nick O’Connor and Flaherty himself, will make up the nucleus of Rochester’s class and shoulder a large leadership load.

The rest of the slack will need to be taken up by a promising new group of young players coming through the ranks, including recruits Jackson McEwen (Leitchville-Gunbower) and Rhys Free (Cohuna Kangas).

‘‘Jackson and Rhys will play, they’ve been good through the practice matches and at training,’’ Flaherty said.

‘‘Will Hamilton and Bailey Wileman have also come up through the under-18s and should go well at senior level.

‘‘Obviously from the last time we played Shepp (in the semi-final) we’ve probably lost 10 or 11 blokes, but round one is always pretty exciting, so we’re ready to go.’’

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