FRESH out of his top-age season in the TAC Cup system, Cooper Henson wants to take the next step in his burgeoning football career.
The Hamilton Kangaroos product is one of three south-west exports set to take part in the annual AFL Victoria Young Guns clash.
He will be thrust before recruiters and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow south-west AFL exports Rowan Marshall and Jamaine Jones, who last year starred in the clash.
Henson spent the majority of the season with the Rebels before a torn calf consigned him to five weeks on the sidelines.
He returned via the Hampden league, closing out the season in strong form before making a comeback in Rebels’ colours.
He posted 12 tackles and 15 disposals in his best performance of the season against Western Jets before the injury curtailed his influence.
But strong form under coach Gerard Fitzgerald earned a spot among the state’s best in the representative clash, which is locked in for this Saturday.
Henson said he was relishing the opportunity to play in the clash.
“It’s exciting, I reckon. I’m really looking forward to having a shot at playing the best footy I possibly can and hopefully at impressing,” he said.
“It’s a team game I suppose, but the Rebels are a good learning curve for that.
“The regional boys and the Ballarat boys blend in together well and you get used to playing with different people.”
Henson said professionalism was the biggest learning curve of playing in the TAC Cup.
“They’re really professional in how they go about it. It’s a very organised set-up,” he said.
“I learnt a lot about footy and everything. It was a great experience.”
The 18-year-old will join Port Fairy’s Ed Delany, Camperdown’s Dale Cox and Portland’s in team A for the battle.
Delany caught the eye of Greater Western Victoria Rebels' selectors after a standout Associated Public Schools season with Xavier College.
The 198 centimetre tall forward rose signed for Port Fairy this season after playing junior football with Hamilton-based College Magpies.
For Henson, the chance to play alongside Hamilton-raised players eased his transition into TAC Cup football.
“It’s been great to play alongside those guys,” he said.
“It’s been good to play with them and even Tom Scott and Locky Dawson, as I’ve played a fair bit with them.”
The Young Guns clash will take place at Fortburn Stadium in Port Melbourne, acting as a curtain-raiser for the VFL preliminary final on Saturday.