Ajak Dang going from strength to strength down back

By Tyler Maher

Mooroopna secured a number of prized recruits in the summer to help fast-track its improvement on the Goulburn Valley League football field.

And while the inclusion of the likes of Hudson Thomas, Kyle Gray and Will Hetherington to the Cats’ line-up has not yet translated to more wins on the board, their presence has had a huge effect on the players around them.

As with any side near the bottom of the table, younger troops have filled key posts at Mooroopna in recent years, but with some bigger bodies on the park this campaign it has freed up the club’s rising stars to spread their wings.

Chief among the beneficiaries has been teenager Ajak Dang.

Playing a role more focused on using his pace and skill to rebound this season — rather than his height to battle against more experienced opponents in the ruck — Dang, 19, has flourished.

When Dang runs out for the Cats against Benalla tomorrow it will be the most number of games he has played in a season at the GVL top level — after debuting in 2016 with Shepparton — and he has already been named in the best players four times.

‘‘I feel like I’m going alright and have had a good start, I’m improving,’’ Dang said.

‘‘I’ve played down back all year, last year I played a bit in the ruck, but this year it’s been all back.

‘‘It’s good to play back and just focus on those things rather than also pitching in in the ruck, now I can just focus on those things like running off my man and beating him one-on-one.’’

A win against Mansfield and a one-point defeat against Seymour have been the highlights for the Cats this year and the entire group believes they are capable of more huge results as the season progresses.

‘‘We’ve got a good group and are improving so it’s really good, it’s a good bunch of blokes,’’ Dang said.

‘‘We definitely believe that we can take it up to the top teams, it’s just that we’ve got to keep consistent and keep working hard.’’

Back-to-back best afield performances from Dang in rounds four and five this campaign showcased exactly what he is capable of when in top form, and he will be looking to make his mark against the Saints tomorrow to help engineer a victory for Mooroopna.