WELCOME to the third edition of The Huddle, our new weekly football column.
Here The Standard discusses interesting tales from across the leagues as well as enjoying the lighthearted side of the game.
THE future is bright for the Greater Western Victoria Rebels, if the weekend debuts of two South Warrnambool underage exports are anything to go by.
Teenage talents Maggie Johnstone and Wil Rantall both showed promising signs for the Rebels against Tasmania in their first Coates Talent League games on Sunday.
Johnstone, who represented Vic Country at the national under 15 championships last month, had seven disposals and was one of the Rebels girls' best in their 37-point loss to the Devils.
Rebels girls coach Sally Riley praised Johnstone, saying she "fitted in well".
"She played well. We played her down back and she had midfield time as well," she said.
"She was really good when she was one-on-one, she actually one a few key contested balls for us. Then obviously she's got a really nice skill set with her kick and decision making."
Riley said the youngster would be better for the experience and would play more games this year.
"It was probably a bit of a, not a shock but obviously they're all pretty quality the opposition, so she probably couldn't do some of the things she could do at the local level and under 16 levels but she adjusted quite well after the first half," she said.
"She really got into it and looked right at home."
Rantall collected five touches and kicked a behind in the boys' 35-point triumph against the Devils.
"He had a couple of moments which was good," Rebels boys coach David Loader said of Rantall.
"Athletically he's really good and has a bright future.
"Expectations weren't as high and you can't expect much from a bottom-ager but he's so athletically gifted, so we're pleased. He's got a big future we reckon."
Two former AFL superstars will find themselves coaching against each other when the Hampden league takes on the Ballarat league in an under 23 representative football match on July 1 at Mars Stadium.
Brisbane Lions legend and South Warrnambool export Jonathan Brown will mentor the HFNL side while it was recently announced Carlton champion Anthony Koutoufides would take charge of the BFNL outfit.
The match will be played during a state-wide bye.
The two leagues met in the 2019 AFL Victoria Community Championships, with the Hampden league, coached by Brown, dominating in a 74-point win.
Both coaches have done it all in football, winning four AFL flags between them and a host of other individual accolades across their storied careers.
There's something different about inter-league football though and a win for either on July 1 would surely rank favourably among their achievements.
Much-loved Portland stalwart Damien Bell brought up his 200th game for the club on the weekend in the Tigers' senior football loss to Camperdown.
The defender "played really well", according to Tigers coach Jarrod Holt, who spoke highly of Bell's impact both on and off the field.
"He (Bell) is definitely a favourite amongst the boys, he works really hard at his game and gets the best out of himself," he said.
"As a coach from my perspective you wish there was more people like that around the club. He's a great club person as well, he's always willing to help out, just a genuine, ripper bloke."
Holt said Bell was flourishing in the top grade despite many of his 200 games coming in the reserves side.
"He's playing some good senior footy now, he's probably played a lot of those games in reserves but he's playing some really good senior footy at the moment," he said. "I think everyone's rapt for him.
"When he gets an award read out the boys are always up and about for him, so that probably shows you how people feel about him around the club. We're really happy for him."
It was a great weekend for VFL players from the south-west, with several exports making their mark in the state league competition.
On Friday night, South Warrnambool's Archie Stevens was in danger of contracting leather poisoning, collecting 35 disposals for Carlton in its 52-point win against Sydney.
Stevens averages 21 disposals from seven matches for the Blues this year and has also featured twice for the Roosters in the Hampden league, earning selection in the best players on both occasions.
Koroit premiership player Josh Chatfield had a prolific time in front of goals for Footscray on Saturday in his side's heavy loss to the Gold Coast Suns. Chatfield made the most of his chances at Darwin's TIO Stadium, slotting four majors from his seven disposals while also taking a huge hanger.
Meanwhile, former Portland Tiger Tanner Lovell took full advantage of his first VFL opportunity for the season, accruing 25 touches for Geelong in its 13-point triumph over Port Melbourne.
The ball-winner's selection was a just reward for his form with the Geelong West Giants in the Geelong league, where he has earned best player selection in five out of six games.
Port Fairy recruit Jason Rowan edged closer to Tony Russell's league goal-scoring record with a five-goal performance against Cobden on Saturday.
Rowan (1016) trails Russell's record of 1020 by just four goals and looks a certainty to surpass it this season. Rowan's fifth goal against the Bombers was one to remember, a set-shot after the siren which sealed an important draw for the Seagulls.
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