GOOD mates Nick Bourke and Lewis Taylor love having a kick of the footy together during school lunchtimes at Camperdown’s Mercy Regional College.
Tomorrow they’ll trade the school ground for Carlton’s Princes Park, where they will be in the spotlight representing Vic Country in the under 18 national championships.
The pair will be joined by South Warrnambool’s Louis Herbert in the Vic Country side that faces Queensland in a game that forms part of their auditions for a future career in the AFL.
While they are all 17, Herbert is the only one in his final year of under 18s with Bourke and Taylor getting another chance to impress talent scouts next year.
But the trio is excited about tomorrow’s opportunity on the big stage with Vic Country, which opened its national championships campaign with a nine-point win over NSW/ACT last weekend.
Herbert, who kicked eight goals with TAC Cup side North Ballarat Rebels last Sunday, said he was keen to step up to the higher level tomorrow.
“I hit a bit of form,” he said.
“I did miss a few, I kicked 8.6. But it’s given me a lot of confidence. I’m just looking forward to the weekend.”
Herbert, who played his junior footy at centre half-forward before joining the Rebels as a wingman or half-forward, said he hoped tomorrow’s game would be a stepping stone to further opportunities.
“I wouldn’t say I’m naturally in the best 22, there are about 34 of us (in the Vic Country squad),” he said.
“I’m just going to have to go out there and try my best and play well. The next three games they pick the best 22. In the first two games they are giving everyone a chance. I just have to do everything right.”
Herbert said his aim was to do well to earn another game.
“I want to play to make the best 22. If I play well I should be in contention.”
He said his goal was to be invited to the draft camps later in the year and making the best 22 would be a good start.
But Herbert said he had to take a relaxed mindset into the match.
“When I think too deep about it, I don’t play well. I’m nervous but I’ll be right.”
Bourke and Taylor both said they were setting themselves up to have fun.
Bourke, who was a member of Kolora-Noorat’s senior Warrnambool and District league premiership side last year, said he was pleased to make the squad after making a slow start to his first season in the TAC Cup competition with Geelong Falcons.
“I came in as a bottom-age kid not wanting to make mistakes and do everything right,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have been like that. My form is starting to pick up. The Falcons told me I’ve got the ability, I have to have the confidence in myself.
“Because I’m only bottom-age and not a real chance to get drafted (this year) it’s more for experiene and trying to get a kick.”
Taylor, who captured the attention of Hampden league followers last season when he burst into Terang Mortlake’s senior side, said he was “real excited” about the match and sharing the experience with his friend Bourke.
“We go to the same school, we are in the same year level and we do some of the same subjects,” he said.
“We played in the (Vic Country) under 16s together. We are pretty good mates.
“Their family is real good to me. They take me up to Melbourne and to TAC Cup matches — they help unbelievably.”
Taylor, who wants to be known as Squizzy, said the game was all part of his development.
“I’m bottom-age this year. You can’t expect too much with all the talent getting around. I just want to go and play and play the best game I can, just help the team as much as I can and try and do my bit and play a role for the side,” he said.
Bourke expects to play across half-forward and on the wing — his usual role — while Taylor will find himself in familiar surrounds on a wing and onball.