VIC Country will start its AFL under 16 national championships campaign against Queensland at Metricon Stadium tonight.
The 25-player team flew to the Gold Coast this morning in preparation for the first of its three matches.
South Warrnambool pair Shannon Beks and Kyden Jarvis, Koroit’s Jarrod Korewha and Cobden’s Sean Darcy will play under Terang-based coach Paul Henriksen at the championships, which are earmarked as a stepping stone to TAC Cup football.
The four south-west players were selected after starring at the AFL Victoria under 16 country championships earlier this year.
Shannon, Kyden and Jarrod represented North Ballarat Rebels and Sean — a towering 200-centimetre ruck prospect — donned Geelong Falcons’ colours.
Two of Vic Country’s games are at Metricon Stadium — the Gold Coast Suns’ home ground.
Vic Country will play Western Australia there on Tuesday morning and wraps up its tournament against Vic Metro at Southport next Friday.
Henriksen said all 25 team members would play in the opening match tonight, with teams to be trimmed to 22 for the remaining two fixtures.
The Hampden league’s representatives will all start on the ground tonight — Kyden on a wing, Shannon in attack, Jarrod in defence and Sean in the ruck.
Vic Country was runner-up in 2012 and won the championship last year.
But Henriksen played down expectations of another bumper carnival, saying each year was different.
“I reckon this group has a lot of improvement and development in them,” he said.
“The big thrill I get is seeing the kids I have coached play outstanding footy at TAC Cup and under 18 level and hopefully in November (each year) a number of them get drafted.”
Vic Country spent the past two days in Melbourne before flying to the Gold Coast.
It visited two AFL clubs yesterday, watching Collingwood train at its Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre base before travelling to Essendon’s Airport West facility for a light training run of its own.
“Our preparation’s been fantastic,” Henriksen said.
“We watched Vic Country go down to Western Australia yesterday at Docklands stadium in the under 18s and had Nathan Buckley come to where we were staying and spoke to the whole group.
“It was exciting to have the Collingwood Football Club coach speak and he coached the (Vic Country side) in 2009.”
Vic Country will watch the Gold Coast-Collingwood twilight fixture at Carrara Stadium tomorrow.