GIPPSLAND Power talent pathways coach Rhett McLennan says his Under 19 boys side is back up to speed after over 550 days away from competitive action, ahead of their Round 1 NAB League meeting with Dandenong Stingrays on Saturday afternoon. Having created a spark though strong preseason performances and the girls’ first win for 2021 last week, the Power have some good momentum heading into this weekend’s clash.
“We were really impressed with the way the boys have turned out athletically given there’s been very little structured training,” McLennan said. “For us to test really well in regards to speed, agility and endurance was really pleasing. It shows that our boys athletically have a really good mix this year and if we can translate that to footy ability then we’ll be really exciting.
“We had a couple of boys there watching (the girls’ win) and it was like a grand final for the girls. For them to win their first game in two and a half seasons and still remain positive over that period of time, it’s just really good to be part of it because those girls have taken any little victory they can along the way and continued to improve.”
The Power have already met their weekend adversaries this year, having competed in a preseason scratch match in blustery conditions at Garfield. McLennan says it was difficult to get a proper reading on either side, but has taken some good learnings away from the game. Given the profile of Gippsland’s list, expect some hard work on the inside to be complemented by good speed on the outer in 2021.
“It was very difficult to get a gauge on either sides’ strengths and weaknesses but Dandenong were very impressive in the speed that they used the ball, and also their talls were quite dominant,” he said. “We’ve been looking to try and negate that in some sort of way whilst trying to create some speed ourselves with fast movement of the ball and carrying it with our smalls.
“The Gippsland way has usually been a team that’s hard to play against, so you can expect that physicality again. But also looking at our list style and attributes, we’re looking to actually play with speed that some of our players have got and hopefully some crumbing play up forward where we can have some of our smalls go to work as well.”
There are a couple of familiar names set to light up Gippsland’s list, with Will Papley (brother of Tom) and Jai Serong (brother of Caleb) among the most promising draft eligible prospects at the Power’s disposal. Both are set to play key roles during the upcoming campaign, and McLennan is certainly a good wrap for them.
“Will Papley has got his body right after a long run of hip and groin soreness, so it looks like he’s going to have a really good early start to the season if he can string some early games together, then I think that he gives the mid-season draft a shake. “Jai Serong has been nothing but impressive in 2020 but even more so in 2021. He tested extremely well in regards to his speed and agility, and at 192cm is a perfect mix for versatility given he’s got really good mid craft, goal sense and the flexibility to play tall or small.”
One of the Power’s eight 19th-year players, Luis D’Angelo will captain the team in 2021 having shown outstanding leadership qualities and elite inside skills. He is yet to play in the NAB League, but is one to look for through the midfield and has already impressed at senior level with Box Hill in their practice matches.
The Power will also have an over-ager running around, as 20-year-old Billy Bundle returns to the region. A player with the heralded basketball background, Bundle has played country football and showed plenty of promise. As he overcomes some preseason injury niggles, expect him to roll out for the Power and make an impact.
Speaking of, 2003-birth Jobe Somerville went down with a knee injury during the Power’s preseason hitout, but McLennan says he will just about have a full list to choose from for Round 1 as a few others make their returns shortly. There will be plenty of excitement nonetheless as Gippsland’s season bounces down at 1:00pm at Morwell Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos