A new rule designed to give developing players more opportunities at VFL level has benefitted four Hampden league footballers.
Geelong Cats will nurture Mitch Burgess (Warrnambool), Liam Herbert (South Warrnambool), Josh Dwyer (Port Fairy) and Isaac Wareham (Terang Mortlake) in 2020.
The four teenagers are aligned with Geelong as development players. Under the new rule, the Cats must play one under-19 player each VFL round.
The Hampden quartet will also remain with NAB League club Greater Western Victoria Rebels after being approved as 19-year-old prospects for the statewide junior competition.
It means Burgess, Herbert, Dwyer and Wareham will play for the Rebels if overlooked at the Cats' selection table each week. They will be under AFL recruiters' eyes wherever they play.
Geelong VFL manager Nathan Tweddle said the Cats had embraced the initiative.
"They have all been training with us. Effectively they're all eligible for VFL selection throughout the year and if they don't get a game with us they will roll back and play with GWV," he said.
"We really encourage it because the transition from NAB footy to VFL can be difficult so it starts it a bit earlier and enables them to get a taste."
Rebels talent manager Phil Partington said the teenagers were "getting the best of both worlds".
"They're getting the development and the facilities with Geelong VFL but if they're not playing there, they're under AFL recruiters' noses all the time with the NAB League team," he said.
"It is a very good opportunity for those boys to further develop their football and the AFL clubs want to watch them further in their 19th year."
Tweddle said all four players would be based in Geelong from next week.
"It's been difficult for them so far given they are commuting from Warrnambool and Port Fairy to come to training," he said.
"We've secured a house for three of them. Josh, Mitch and Liam are all moving down next week. Those three are going to move in together and Isaac is on res at uni.
"It is going to make things a lot easier for both parties because it's about a five-hour round trip for them at the moment."
The four have impressed Tweddle on the training track.
Herbert and Burgess have attended most of the Cats' sessions while Dwyer (work) and Wareham (knee) are easing their way in.
"Liam's a great athletic runner, he's won all of our time-trials," he said.
"Mitch has got elite speed. You can see already when he gets the ball and tucks it under his arm he leaves everyone else in his tracks."
Partington has high hopes for the quartet.
"I don't want to see them at all for the whole year, I'd rather see them at Geelong VFL," he said.
"But if they don't get picked they come back and play a really high quality in front of recruiters in the NAB League."
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