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Bushrangers on trial for Victoria Country team

Eight Murray Bushrangers will have the chance to impress state selectors tonight when they line up for Victoria Country in a trial match against Northern Territory.

DAMEN FRANCIS April 18, 2014 3:15am

There is something in the water in Benalla.

Of eight Murray Bushrangers named in an extended Victoria Country state squad for a trial match against Northern Territory tonight, four hail from Benalla and play for the local Goulburn Valley Football League club.

Bushrangers captain Nick Mellington, vice-captain Caleb Marchbank, David Mennen and Brody Webster have the chance to impress selectors for the AFL Under-18 National Championships.

In recent years the town has produced the likes of Brisbane Lions star Tom Rockliff and ex-Bushrangers captain Sam Martyn, who is plying his trade in the VFL this season.

Saints coach Luke Morgan couldn’t put his finger on why the town was able to produce so many talented players.

‘‘We’ve got a big district that draws a few more players than other clubs, but otherwise I’m not sure,’’ Morgan said.

‘‘The football club is a huge part of this town, so that’s maybe got something to do with it and it is a passionate football community, but not more so than Kyabram or Tatura.

‘‘The junior football system is well run, but a lot of the time it comes down to the individual and not so much the area they come from.’’

Marchbank is yet to play a game this season, having suffered a torn tendon in his shoulder in pre-season, and remains a doubt to play.

Mellington and Mennen have long been under consideration, but Webster has forced his way into the squad with a strong start to the year.

A small key forward, Webster has taken 24 marks in his first three TAC Cup games this season and was in the best in last week’s win against the Rebels.

Rockliff’s cousin Harry Morrison has also been selected in the Victoria Country under-16 side.

Morgan said Morrison, a tall, marking midfielder, would make his under-18 debut for the Saints this weekend.

Bushrangers coach Darren Ogier said it was no secret Benalla had had a good run in recent seasons.

‘‘These boys have just got something in the gene pool that they’re very lucky to have and they’re certainly keen to make the most of it,’’ Ogier said.

‘‘To have them all in the one age group is a luxury and something you can’t take for granted.

‘‘It’s certainly a bonus for the local area and at some stage they will no doubt have an impact in the GVFL.’’

Mooroopna has two representatives in the squad in Nathan Drummond and rangy ruckman Alex Tattersall.

Drummond will be vying for one of two 19-year-old spots in any given game at the nationals.

Should he play, it will be his third national championships, having also appeared last year and as a bottom age played in 2012.

Others in the squad are Kyabram’s Tom Holman and Seymour’s Josh Schache, as well as Rennie’s Dan Howe and Wangaratta’s Jackson Clarke.

More than 50 players are in the initial squad, with players from the Bushrangers, North Ballarat Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers programs playing against Northern Territory, while those from Dandenong Stingrays, Geelong Falcons and Gippsland Power take on NSW.

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