Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Bushrangers debut for Congupna young gun

After a tough start to the season due to illness and an injury, Congupna teenager Luke Smith will make his debut for Murray Bushrangers this weekend.

DAMEN FRANCIS July 11, 2014 3:05am

Luke Smith hopes his luck has finally taken a turn for the better.

Smith, 16, has endured a testing season, managing only a handful of games for Murray Football League club Congupna, but will debut for TAC Cup side Murray Bushrangers this weekend.

The promising Congupna footballer was diagnosed with glandular fever in March and had to ease his way back to fitness through the under-17 team.

After finally overcoming the illness and breaking through for his senior debut against Moama in round nine, Smith injured his collarbone representing Wanganui Park Secondary College in a school football game in Melbourne and spent another two weeks on the sidelines.

Smith returned for last Saturday’s MFL senior clash and was among the best as The Road took the challenge up to high-flying Rumbalara.

Part of an on-ball-forward rotation, Smith made several significant contributions, showing clean hands and poise beyond his years.

Smith said he looked forward to moving on from a challenging first half of the season.

‘‘It is very frustrating. It was good to get back out there,’’ Smith said.

‘‘When I had glandular fever, I was tired and bit bedridden, I couldn’t get out and do much and with my collarbone, I was still able to run, it was just contact I wasn’t able to do.

‘‘My fitness is not as good as it was, but it’s getting better.’’

Speaking after last week’s game, Smith was unaware of his impending TAC Cup selection, but hoped to get an opportunity.

‘‘Hopefully when I get to string more than one game together at a time,’’ he said.

‘‘The Bushrangers have been really supportive with my glandular fever, just telling me to take as much time as I need.’’

Bushrangers coach Darren Ogier initially expected Smith to debut after next week’s bye, but was keen to get him in the side as soon as possible and moved quickly when a spot opened up for this weekend’s clash with Western Jets.

Ogier said Smith’s attack on the footy reminded him of former Bushranger and last year’s North Melbourne AFL draftee Kayne Turner.

‘‘Luke’s just a ripper, he has a red-hot go for a bloke who’s 50kg wringing wet, he’s just in and under the whole time,’’ Ogier said.

‘‘He’s a very good running player and he’s very smart with the ball in his hands and the thing I like about him is he makes things happen, he really takes the game by the scruff of the neck.

‘‘He’s very proactive and uses his initiative in games, he certainly doesn’t wait for anyone else to make things happen.

‘‘We’ve been really keen to get him in, he’s a great little player and we thought we want to give him a crack now and give him a taste.’’

Smith will debut under the 23rd player rule, which limits him to 50 per cent of game time outside the middle of the ground, allowing him to ease into the TAC Cup fold.

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