HARD-EDGED utility Zacc Dwyer knows the heat will rise around the contests in his maiden V/Line Cup campaign.
But for the 15-year-old, the chance to test his skills against the state’s best schoolboy players is one he is grasping with both hands.
Fresh off a fruitful season with Warrnambool’s under 16 side, Dwyer will travel to Gippsland via Ballarat as a part of the Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy side on Monday.
He is one of 22 south-west footballers in the squad, of which 19 are Hampden league prospects.
Dwyer expected skills and toughness to boot from his opponents.
He said while TAC Cup football was on his radar, it wasn’t the “be all and end all” of his ambitions.
“It’s good to represent our region. It’s a way of taking my football a bit further,” Dwyer told The Standard.
“(The opportunity) just sort of popped up. I knew about the Hampden schoolboys and I knew about the thing but I wasn’t aware of how far you could go with it.
“It’s going to be a lot harder and more challenging than the teams I play with regularly in the Hampden league. The skills and the intensity will be right up there.”
The Warrnambool College student said the chance to make friends was a positive of taking part in the cup.
The squad has drawn players from across western Victoria, with representation from Ballarat, Avoca, Stawell, Ararat and Horsham.
The Hampden league, however, remains the largest provider of players.
South Warrnambool boasts six juniors in the squad, with Flynn Atchison, Marcus Herbert, Fraser Marris, Riley Nicolson, Willem O’Sullivan and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
Port Fairy (Brenton Dalton, Saul Giblin, Mackenzie Royals) and Hamilton Kangaroos (Koby Walter, Harry Waters, Travis Scott) are the second most prolific Hampden league outfits, with three players each named.
Warrnambool has two, with Dwyer and Ben Howard taking part.
Camperdown (Angus Gordon), Cobden (Lachlan Goss), Terang Mortlake (Kane Johnstone), Koroit (Clem Nagorcka), North Warrnambool Eagles (Jett Bermingham) all have one.
Warrnambool and District powerhouse Kolora-Noorat has under 14.5 captain Ned Payne in the squad.
Meanwhile, Mininera and District’s Glenthompson Dunkeld and Penshurst both have players in Matthew Fry and Aaron Glare.
Chloe Landwher (Hamilton), Casey Willis, Renee Saulitis (South Warrnambool), Ally Jeffery (Cobden), Lucy Moloney (Warrnambool), Kate Gleeson and Victoria Jewell (Portland) are set to play in the Bulldogs’ academy female side.
The female side is made up of 24 players.