NORTH Ballarat Rebels will host fellow TAC Cup contender Calder Cannons in a blockbuster showdown at Horsham City Oval on Sunday.
The Rebels will make their first and only trip to the Wimmera with plenty on the line against the second-placed Cannons.
With only two rounds remaining in the home and away season, the Rebels can go a long way towards wrapping up a top-four berth with a win, but coach David Loader warned it would not come easy.
“Calder is an outstanding footy side with a rich footy region to draw from,” he said.
“We’d probably be long odds to win this game, but we’ve always had a good record in Horsham, which is something we want to keep intact.”
Loader said the game would be a great showcase of TAC Cup football to young players in the Wimmera who aspired to join the Rebels.
He said plenty of Wimmera talent would be on show.
Rebels captains Keegan Mason and Josh Webster play for Horsham District Football Netball League teams Laharum and Kalkee respectively.
Webster is out with injury and Loader said Mason needed to prove himself in a fitness test to be selected.
Nevertheless, he said there would be a strong Wimmera flavour in the team, including Edenhope-Apsley’s Oscar McDonald, who was recently selected for the AFL Victorian draft combine.
“Some weeks we’ve had almost half the side made up of Wimmera players,” he said.
“With a couple of injuries and form for a couple of others it won’t be that high, but it’s still a fantastic achievement considering the size of the other regions we draw from.”
Calder has its own Wimmera connection too, with Reilly O’Brien set to line up for the Cannons.
The 202-centimetre player’s father Damien grew up in Horsham and played in St Michaels’ 1969 premiership while attending St Brigid’s College.
Reilly is the first cousin of Horsham cyclist Mark O’Brien and the grandson of the late Dr Mark O’Brien, a respected Horsham doctor.