GIPPSLAND League interleague coach Steve Hazelman is confident his side has the qualities to turn the tables on representative football nemesis Bendigo.
Premiership frontrunners Traralgon and Leongatha account for 15 members of the 24-man squad which will don the red, white and blue in Saturday’s AFL Victoria Community Championships clash at Warragul.
Eight of the league’s 10 clubs are represented, with Maffra and Morwell not represented.
Sale players John Gooch and Andrew Quirk were selected in the squad, while Traralgon midfielder Haydn Hector and Leongatha defender Joel Sinclair were drafted in from outside the initial training squad.
Gippsland squad member Tom Hams previously played interleague for Bendigo.
“I am very happy with our side it is very balanced and we have a great mix of pace and height that can hopefully exploit Bendigo on our home turf,” Hazelman said.
“All the players that have been selected are all in good form and selection was very difficult.”
The past three times the leagues have met, Bendigo has emerged victorious. All three of those matches were played in Bendigo.
Only five of the squad — Gooch, Quirk, Brad Scalzo, Danny Campbell and Chris Verboon — played in Gippsland’s most recent loss to Bendigo two years ago. Nine goals from former St Kilda star Stephen Milne was a major factor in Bendigo’s 34-point win.
The previous time Gippsland hosted Bendigo was in 2008, when a four-team interleague carnival was played in Sale. The home team claimed the points that day.
The winner of tomorrow’s contest will move up to 10th on the new-look AFL Victoria rankings, comparative heights the Gippsland League has not reached since the head-to-head format was introduced in 2009.
Hazelman was pleased with the commitment shown to this year’s campaign and said there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the playing group.
“The attitude of our players has been fantastic and the fact we are playing Bendigo in front of our home crowd has been a real motivating factor in all our good players making themselves available to win this year’s interleague game,” he said.
“We have planned a long way out for this weekend’s game and I believe if we play at our best we will be hard to beat.”
While Bendigo is only sending a senior football team to Western Park, there will still be other matches being played tomorrow.
A senior netball match, pitting the best players from the eastern end of the league against the west, will be played from 12.15pm. Before that, an all-abilities netball match will be played from 11am.
On the oval from noon, Warragul Colts and Phillip Island will play in a youth girls football match ahead of the senior game from 2pm.
Bairnsdale: Tom Hams
Drouin: Bob McCallum
Leongatha: Zac Vernon, Shem Hawking, Tom Marriott, Joel Sinclair, Chris Dunne, Aaron Hillberg, Chris Verboon
Moe: Tom Long
Sale: John Gooch, Andrew Quirk
Traralgon: Danny Campbell, Tim Northe, Michael Stockdale, Mark Collison, Matt Northe, Haydn Hector, Ben Amberg, Adrian Slottje
Warragul: Brad Scalzo, Nath Paredes, Brayden Fowler
Wonthaggi: Braeden McLean
Castlemaine: Justin Dorward, Kal Huntly
Eaglehawk: Brenton Conforti, Tyler Miles, Ben McPhee
Golden Square: Adam Baird, Jon Coe, Brayden Dorrington, Jack Geary, Dylan Johnstone, Hamish Morcom, Chris Ryan, Thomas Toma
Kangaroo Flat: Nic Lang
Maryborough: Coby Perry
Sandhurst: Kristan Height, Codie Price, Joel Wharton
South Bendigo: Isaiah Miller
Strathfieldsaye: Harry Conway, Trent Donnan, Jake Hall, Michael Pilcher