NORTH Ballarat Rebels will take a raw but promising ruck duo into its TAC Cup season-opener at Camperdown on Sunday.
Rebels coach David Loader has enlisted Portland’s Rowan Marshall and Dartmoor’s Korry Smith to carry the ruck mantle against highly-fancied Geelong Falcons.
Marshall, 18, was invited back into the Rebels’ program as a 19-year-old this year after showing glimpses in his eight appearances as a top-age player in 2013.
Smith, 17, will make his TAC Cup debut on Sunday, having missed the bulk of last season with a broken arm.
Loader said the pair would complement each other well in the ruck.
Marshall is an athletic 198-centimetre prospect, while Smith is a strongly-built 195-centimetre talent.
Loader said Marshall was “like a young colt”.
“Rowan grew a little bit over summer,” he said.
“We sat down and talked with AFL Victoria and we thought he is the type of guy who deserves another chance with his size and shape.
“He got to us at Christmas and has been fantastic with what he’s brought to the table so far.
“He reads the game relatively well and has grown five or six centimetres in the past six months. He wasn’t a true ruckman size last year and is getting to it now.”
Loader said Smith — the first Rebel to come out of Dartmoor since Greater Western Sydney forward Jeremy Cameron — was a “workhorse”.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what we get from Korry,” he said.
“We’re pretty excited Korry will bring a competitive nature to the game.”
Marshall notched two senior games for Portland in 2013 and played in the Tigers’ first Hampden league under 18.5 premiership.
He will move to Ballarat in coming weeks to concentrate on his football. “It is a great opportunity. I was a bit nervous but I am glad I got another chance,” Marshall said.
“I think they were a bit short on height and they say taller players take longer to develop their footy.
“I have shot up in the last couple of years or so, so I have played all over the place really. But the last couple of years ruck has been my main position.”
Coleraine premiership midfielder Eric Guthrie and Warrnambool premiership wingman Tom Schnerring will also make their Rebels debuts as top-age players.
Loader said Guthrie was a small in-and-under ball winner and Schnerring a versatile option.
“Tom has grown a bit and a year of senior footy with Warrnambool (has helped),” he said.
“He is a different player now to what he was when we saw him 12 months ago. We’re excited with what Tom will bring to the table and where he might be with his football in five to six months’ time.”
Koroit’s Jayden Brennan and Portland’s Tom Templeton were other south-west players named for the round one battle.
“Jayden has worked pretty hard over the pre-season to have himself in reasonable nick,” Loader said.
“We want him to be a solid contributor and not drift in and out of games.”
Geelong Falcons’ line-up has no Hampden league players. The TAC Cup game will start at 2pm on Sunday, with an under 16s match between the two clubs as a curtain-raiser at noon.