AFTER a somewhat embarrassing 2016 performance the Western Border Football League has been all stations go to prove it is competitive at this year’s South East Zone Interleague Carnival at McDonald Park.
Western Border went without a win last year, but has been up there with the best in the three carnivals prior and 2017 coach Steve Duldig believes he has the 23 players to achieve a much needed victory.
A strong squad of 45 players was selected initially and out of that a fierce 23-man team has been chosen.
Duldig said he looked forward to taking on the challenge as coach of a side that is eager for redemption.
He spoke highly of his captain Matt Scanlon and vice captain Brock Egan, believing the side has just the right mixture of both youth and experience to get the job done.
“They are both natural leaders,” Duldig said.
“Matt is obviously coach at East and Brock has been in leadership roles with North and at a representative football level.
“We have got other guys in the side that have coached their own teams and past and current captains, so I think we are covered all over the ground as far as leadership goes.”
Despite five players Under 21 compulsory for the team of 23, Duldig said the chosen youngsters were selected based on their performances, not their age.
“They would have been in the squad no matter what,” he said.
“We have two 17-year-olds in our team who are still eligible for the Under 17 interleague team, Tynan Shannon and Declan Carmody.
“Both have got some real talent and I am really excited to see how they go at senior interleague level.”
While Duldig understood both Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara and Mid South East will be difficult, he believes has the side to take the win.
“I am really confident and happy with the team we have chosen,” he said.
“We have plenty of depth, experience and flexibility.”
With a disappointing 2016 still weighing heavily of the league’s mind, the Western Border side is eager to prove itself tomorrow.
“We are going out there on the weekend to win the competition,” Duldig said.
“Obviously we are coming from a fair way behind after last year’s result, but the keenness that everyone has shown so far on the track, I can’t see why we couldn’t take it up to the two other leagues.”
The small oval at McDonald Park will be seen as an advantage to Western Border.
Kowree Naracoorte are renowned for their larger football grounds and it will take some adjusting to get the job done over the host’s.
“KNT like the open spaces and to get the ball on the outside,” Duldig said.
“I think being a smaller ground, we have got many guys who really love that contested footy, so if we can keep it tight then it will definitely give us an advantage.”
With one of the strongest Western Border sides in recent years dubbing the “double blue” Duldig said there is a long list of players he is eager to watch closely.
“I am keen to see some of our new guys play, Mark Rumbellow from East Gambier is a real force down forward,” he said.
“When Millicent played them he was really impressive and I think he is the kind of guy that at that next level he will play even better.
“He has some league football experience, so do a couple of other guys in our squad.
“Brock Egan will handy in the midfield and Clint Gallio – who is new to our league this year as well – I am excited to see how he goes.”
After years of representing Western Border, Duldig’s said passion for interleague football is still there.
He hopes the host’s can take the win at the end of the day and give the league something to be proud of.
“I was lucky enough to play interleague football, but I had stepped away in a playing role a few years ago because of my age,” he said.
“After seeing last year’s results, I wasn’t there, but hearing about it, it was quite disappointing.
“So, when the league approached me I didn’t have to think too long and hard about it, I was keen to put my hand up and contribute in another role.”
Bragging rights are not the only positive out of the carnival with a zone squad chosen at the end of the day from all three leagues and Duldig hopes a number of his players make the cut.
“I think the carnival is very important, not just for bragging rights but for opportunities,” he said.
“Players are able to experience football at a slightly higher level and it does give opportunities to further their football with zone and just being recognised.
“I think it is especially important for the younger ones.”
With players determined to prove themselves both on an individual and team scale, Duldig said he was excited for tomorrow’s carnival.