WIMMERA footballers Jarrod Berry and Sam White will start their NAB AFL Under-16 Championships campaign against South Australia at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
The 25-player team will fly to the Gold Coast for the week-long tournament, ahead of Friday night's match and two more matches against Western Australia on Tuesday and Vic Metro on Friday next week.
Vic Country coach Paul Henriksen, who led the side to the championship last year, said it would be a great learning experience for both players.
“The whole idea is to prepare these players for TAC Cup footy next year and the year after,” he said.
“At this level, making sure kids get opportunities and exposure is the key.”
Both Berry and White will feature in Friday night's match – with all 25 players allowed to play – while only 22 players can play in the following two matches.
Henriksen said White, from Hopetoun, was likely to line-up at half-back where the side could utilise his marking, run and left foot.
“Sam’s a really good contested mark – that’s been a standout over the last two months of the program – and he’s actually quite courageous with his marking,” he said.
“He plays quite tall and strong and will probably play across half-back but he might go forward as well.”
The Vic Country coach said Berry, from Horsham Saints, will push through half-back and the midfield.
“Jarrod’s a strong player who can play half-back, but I think moving towards TAC Cup he’ll become a midfielder,” Henriksen said.
“He’s very strong, he uses the ball well and is prepared to run and carry.
“He’s an all-round athlete and going forward I think he’s going to become a midfielder.”
Team manager Jock Whiting said playing at Metricon Stadium – the home ground of AFL club Gold Coast Suns – was a great opportunity for the players involved.
“It will be super for the kids to play under lights and at a good facility, so they’re looking forward to that,” he said.
The squad was involved in a two-day camp leading up to the tournament.
They watched the Vic Country under-18s at Etihad Stadium, worked with Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and player Taylor Adams, and had a rehab session at Essendon’s Tullamarine training base.
Whiting said the side would add to its experience by connecting with AFL clubs in Queensland, with a visit from recently retired Brisbane Lions legend Jonathon Brown on the cards.
“We’ll no doubt tap into a few of the boys from the Gold Coast Suns as well and Brisbane’s Michael Close indicated he’d like to come down and watch the boys,” he said.