Five local products will make their NAB League debuts when the Murray Bushrangers open their campaign tomorrow.
Against the talented Gippsland Power, Kade Chalcraft (Shepparton United), Josh O’Dwyer (Numurkah), Sam Durham (Seymour), Ben Ashley-Cooper (Finley) and Harry Beasley (Cobram) will debut, along with Shepparton’s Cam Wild, who played for the Northern Knights last season.
But it will not be a stroll in the park for the Bushies, tackling a Power unit which defied its youth to make a preliminary final last season.
New Murray coach Mark Brown knows his group is up against it, but was just excited to get the season going.
‘‘After four months of a fairly long and arduous preseason it’s nice for round one to finally roll around,’’ he said.
‘‘I think of the regional sides, from what you hear (Gippsland will) probably be the strongest.
‘‘They played a lot of bottom-age players last year and were still quite strong, they had about 12 bottom-agers on average. They’ve got some genuine top-end talent, so for us it will be a good challenge.’’
The Bushrangers will look to returning talents Lachie Ash (Shepparton), Jye Chalcraft and Liam Fiore (Shepparton United) to lead a top-age-heavy side, a club policy Brown said would see older talents get early opportunities.
He said a new approach to preseason had his side a touch behind rival clubs in its preparation (but) was a case of short-term pain, long-term gain.
‘‘This year we elected to let guys get rest when the opportunities were there,’’ he said.
‘‘In previous seasons we’re finding we get to August and drop off a cliff, a product of that repetitive travel all year.
‘‘We were pretty rusty at the weekend and hopefully we make some quick gains this weekend.’’
But while the side is looking to build on its fifth place last season, the coach said helping individual players take their games to new heights was his main goal.
‘‘The win-loss doesn’t come into it as it’s about individual development and helping guys find the tools to become as good footballers as they can be,’’ Brown said.
‘‘But when you speak to recruiters, the one thing they always want to see is the kids being competitive.
‘‘We’re probably a couple of weeks behind other sides and we might be a bit rusty, but I expect us to be very, very competitive.’’