PRAISE from an astute coach emphasises the high regard Bailey Jenkinson is held in at North Warrnambool Eagles.
The half-back playmaker has impressed six-time Hampden league premiership-winning mentor Adam Dowie during pre-season, drawing comparisons with reigning Maskell Medal winner Jett Bermingham who won the league's top honour as a teenager.
"If he can stay fit, he's on par with Jett as an elite player in the competition," Dowie said.
Jenkinson is one of a number of emerging players expected to stamp their mark on the competition in 2022.
The Standard surveyed the 10 senior coaches to see how they identified as their respective club's next generation players.
Magpies mentor Neville Swayn has been blessed with high-quality juniors during his time at the helm.
This year he is predicting 19-year-old backman Josh Place and 18-year-old creative winger Dom Absalom to emerge.
"Josh is an honest player who is having a big pre-season," he said.
New Cobden coach Dan Casey is impressed with Ben Berry - a young goal-kicker.
Casey, who played key forward during his career, hopes he can guide Berry as he settles into the role.
Matt Clarke, an emerging ruckman, and midfielder Isaac McVilly are also on the Bombers' senior radar.
Teenager Duncan Rentsch - a player who can fill multiple roles including as a shutdown midfielder-defender - will play a major role for new leader Hamish Waldron.
"He got a big couple of jobs last year tagging (ex-AFL pair) Shane Savage and Billie Smedts and held his own," he said.
"He has got himself really fit and has bulked up.
"He put in a lot of hard work with his cousin Josh Rentsch (who now plays for SANFL club Sturt) before Christmas and it's paid off."
Koroit enjoys plucking talented juniors to join its dominant senior team and 2022 will be no different.
Coach Chris McLaren has identified Mac Peterson and Jack Block as two ready to cement their spots.
Peterson went through the NAB League system with GWV Rebels.
"Mac's form in the (Let's Talk Cup) under 23 comp was outstanding and he has really stepped up his pre-season training," he said.
"Jack played six-to-eight senior games last season and showed he has the potential to be a very good senior player.
"He would easily be one of the best kicks in the competition on that left foot."
North Warrnambool Eagles' young talent flexed its muscle in winning the Let's Talk under 23 cup in November.
Dowie believes their youth will complement a strong senior core as they strive for a premiership.
"Harry Keast played every game in 2021," he said.
"He's a wingman who does everything right and plays his role perfectly.
"Callum Grundy had a breakout year playing as a lockdown defender, hard as nails and fearless, and Austin Sinclair is in the mould of Bailey Jenkinson and Luke Wines, an intercepting defender who reads the game extremely well.
"Ben Kellett, who is 195cm and kicked five goals in his first senior game in 2021, plays like a midfielder and can play in the ruck, up forward and down back if needed."
Dowie is confident Bermingham can build on his Maskell Medal win too and believes Jenkinson - also a Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one cricketer - can take his game to another level at half-back.
The Tigers were on the cusp of their first finals appearance before COVID-19 restrictions forced the 2021 season to the sidelines.
Coach Jarrod Holt has reason to be bullish about their prospects this year, citing forward-wingman Jackson Dunlop, 21, wingman Jack Walsh, 18, and half-forward Kade Lovell, 18, as players on the rise.
"Jackson has played some really good consistent footy as a small forward. He's quick and elusive and crafty up on a wing too," he said.
"Jack is super quick and tough for a young kid. Can really break games open.
"Kade played about seven games last year in the seniors and was really crafty and is a good ball user.
"Whenever he is around the ball, he seems to create something positive for us."
A player on the comeback trail is expected to add to Port Fairy's wing rotation.
James Duncan, 20, spent a large part of the 2021 season on the sidelines.
"He missed most of last year with a knee injury but has been playing senior football since he was 17 and playing against the likes of Alex Pulling where he has learned what good players do," Seagulls coach Winis Imbi said.
"He has now got himself extremely fit and has the IQ to play the role of a modern wingman.
"His skills are sound but is becoming a good decision-maker with ball in hand. He'll only get better."
TWO players with senior experience are anticipated to spend more time in Mat Battistello's team.
Jaidyn Hawkins, who can play half-back and wing, and versatile tall Jed Henderson who won the Roosters' 2km time trial last week.
The Bloods have some top-quality young players in their ranks as evidenced via the development of Darcy Hobbs, Will Kain, Harvey Roberts and co last season.
Coach Ben Kenna believes Xavier Vickers and Tyson Royal will push for regular senior opportunities.
"Xavier is a smart, skilled midfielder-forward who really impressed in the (Let's Talk Cup) under 23 competition," he said.
"He trains very well and has got a bright future.
"Tyson also did well in the under 23 competition.
"He's a strongly built young player with speed and skill too.
"He's a versatile player who could play anywhere.
"Both boys are 17 and will get senior opportunities this year and have bright futures."
Theo Opperman, Adam Sztynda and Ben Howard are three Blues who can add a different dynamic to Ben Parkinson's side in 2022.
"Theo and Ben are onballers and both 18 and Ben is a ruckman who is also a teenager," the non-playing coach said.
"These three should be regulars and all got a taste of senior footy last season.
"They should be able to cement themselves at the level. They are putting in good pre-seasons and all have real competitive drive to be better players."
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