Three of the region’s rising stars will be looking to mark their mark at the nation’s largest showcase of footballing prospects this weekend.
Murray Bushrangers Laitham Vandermeer (Mooroopna), Zane Barzen (Shepparton United) and Lachie Ash (Shepparton) have been named in Victoria Country’s side for round one of the under-18 National Championships.
The Country side tackles the Allies at Blacktown today at 10.30am.
It is the first of four games for the side, with fixtures against South Australia, Vic Metro and Western Australia to come in the following weeks.
Vandermeer and Ash have been in sublime form, their performances a key factor in the Bushrangers’ 5-2 start to the TAC Cup season.
United’s Barzen has missed game time this season with injury but has been named on the wing for the opening game.
Murray Bushrangers assistant coach Mark Brown spoke glowingly of the trio and the opportunities they had earned.
‘‘(Ash’s) form has been absolutely first class, he’s emerged from nowhere to grab a spot in the side, and he should go into the championship full of confidence because his form is as good as it gets,’’ he said.
‘‘Zane probably comes at it from a different point of view, he’s had an injury interrupted start to the year. He’s been back for two weeks and he played last year so he knows what is required.
‘‘Along with Lachie, (Vandermeer) has been in our best two players this season, our most consistent performers.
‘‘He’s got a tonne of speed and he’ll play some really fast footy which should make him well-suited to the championships. Like Lachie, he should go in full of confidence.’’
●The Murray Bushrangers will have a new face at the helm today when the side hosts Oakleigh in Wangaratta.
Assistant coach Mark Brown will step up to the lead role as coach Leon Higgins has been named Victoria Country assistant coach.
In the absence of some core talents, he said it was a chance for fringe players to impress.
‘‘I think this four-match period is a real opportunity — inevitably we find someone who has been on the periphery. They get an opportunity to step up and then they will play the rest of the season with us,’’ Brown said.
‘‘It’s just a real opportunity for guys to get a chance, and the responsibility falls back on those players to show what they are capable of.’’
Among a string of inclusions is the debutant duo of Mansfield’s Joel Sanford and Euroa’s Robbie Paradzayi.
‘‘Joel Sanford has been playing some really good footy with Mansfield and Rob Paradzayi from Euroa too, it’s a real testament to him,’’ Brown said.
‘‘We don’t expect them to be world beaters straight away, we just want them to execute their roles.’’
The Bushies were beaten in their last outing back on May 19, Dandenong proving too strong in a 19-point win.
At 5-2, Brown was hoping the side would step up and get back to its winning ways against the Chargers.
‘‘It’s in our hands; Dandenong has been the team to beat and is very slick, but in that third quarter we proved when we execute we could be competitive,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s about doing the basics well, being clean and executing.’’