PROMISING soccer players denied a chance to represent their region at the country championships the past two seasons are eager to suit up for South West Victoria Football Association this weekend.
It will send four teams - under 18 boys, under 18 girls, under 16 boys and under 13 mixed - to the three-day Geelong-based tournament.
It comes after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the past two championships.
Budding Warrnambool Wolves striker Lukas Boyle will make his country championships debut, co-captaining South West's under 13 mixed team alongside Stawell Warriors' Poppy Kingan.
"I am looking forward to the experience and playing tougher competition," the Merrivale Primary School student said.
Boyle, who watched his A-League team Western United win the grand final at AAMI Park recently, is happy with the side, highlighting its passing prowess.
At the other end of the age spectrum is South West under 18 captain Gabby Allen, who wants to finish her junior career on a high.
"I am 17, turning 18 at the end of the year, so it will be my last year playing juniors and I don't know if I will play senior women's in the future but I am really keen to do it," she said.
"I have been there from day-dot and it's always been about having fun with everyone."
The Brauer College student, who plays for Warrnambool Rangers in the Ballarat and District Soccer Association, said it had been a long wait.
"It's been three years running and we've had about 40 girls come through the team, in and out," Allen said.
"But because of COVID and year 12 commitments, we have come down to only 16 players and we have a few new girls who have started this year and joined the team.
"It will be a really good opportunity for everybody to have a kick around and see the competition at a higher level."
Daniel Lim will lead the under 18 boys' team.
The centre midfielder, who is an apprentice builder, said the squad had tempered its expectations but was excited for the challenge.
"I am looking forward to having some competition, because of COVID it's been hard to organise things," he said.
"We'll see how we go when we get there. It will be my last year playing juniors."
Under 16 boys skipper Gabe Lim, who plays centre back or midfield, believes his South West team has some tricks up its sleeve.
Lim, 14, plays for Warrnambool Wolves locally and said it was enjoyable playing alongside players from different clubs.
"I think it will be fun and we'll get to know some teammates better," he said.
"I think we can defend quite well and we have quick counter-attacks, pass people on the wings, we could be deadly that way."
The country championships start on Saturday and finish on Queen's Birthday public holiday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.