PREVIEW | NAB League goes country in latest return

THE 2021 NAB League season returns once more on Sunday afternoon, with eased lockdown restrictions seeing a quartet of the competition’s Country regions take centre stage. Two games remain for the four teams in action on Sunday, with the added potential for make-up fixtures and a Wildcard Round before finals. Meanwhile, Metro-based programs hope to return to the fold next weekend along with the Dandenong Stingrays and Murray Bushrangers.

Bendigo Pioneers lock horns with Geelong Falcons for the third time this season when they meet at Queen Elizabeth Oval at 1:00pm, with the ledger currently at an even 1-1. While Bendigo got the chocolates all the way back in Round 4, the Falcons hit back in Round 8 to square things up and set up an intriguing tiebreaker.

The 6-4 Pioneers sit second in the Country pool and are set to welcome back some strong talent. While AFL Academy member Cooper Hamilton remains out, twin brother Hugh returns to the fold and looks poised to join Harvey Gallagher and Jack Hickman in a strong midfield trio. Utility Cobi Maxted is also back after turning out for Collingwood’s VFL side last month, while the likes of Sam Conforti and Oskar Faulkhead offer sound rotation through midfield from either end of the ground.

Toby Conway is among the Geelong Falcons’ inclusions

Geelong boasts some handy inclusions of its own, headlined by 204cm ruck Toby Conway. The influential bigman comes in alongside fellow Vic Country representative Noah Gribble, who last made his VFL debut with Werribee. He shifts out to his familiar wing position with the likes of Mitch Knevitt, Cooper Whyte, and bottom-ager Jhye Clark taking spots on the inside. Top-ager Gennaro Bove remains and small forward Euriah Hollard is back, but the Falcons look set to go in without Noah Gadsby.

Sunday’s second fixture sees first battle last in the Country pool, as the 7-2 Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels travel to take on Gippsland Power (2-7) in Morwell. Despite their perfectly opposite records and current ladder positions, Gippsland picked up the more recent win after toppling Oakleigh Chargers last time out, while GWV went down to Sandringham Dragons. The Rebels easily accounted for their weekend opponents in Round 8 though, to the tune of 79 points on home turf.

The hosts welcome back top-age defender Jess McGrath after his two-game stint in the Richmond VFL set-up, slotting straight back in at centre half-back. Up the other end, Jai Serong has been named at full forward but will likely be thrown around in numerous roles, while bottom-agers Jacob Konstanty (forward) and Cooper Vickery (wing) are a couple to watch. In midfield, Mitchell Moschetti is in fine form and will look to add some polish alongside Luis D’Angelo as the Power move forward.

Ben Hobbs in action for Vic Country

GWV has again named a stacked side, with all nine of its Vic Country representatives available. A midfield squeeze is on the cards with top 10 talent Ben Hobbs named in there alongside Sam Butler and Sam Breuer, seeing the likes of Fraser Marris and Marcus Herbert squeezed out to flanks. Skipper Josh Rentsch may be set for more time in the ruck, and defender Josh Gibcus promises to catch the eye as always. On the interchange, tough midfielder Nick Hodgson is a handy inclusion for the Rebels.

Stay tuned to Draft Central next week, as we wrap up all the results and big performances with our weekly NAB League snapshot, Scouting Notes, Player of the Week, and more.

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