Story by Tim Miller

It might only be pre-season, but the signs from the Calder Cannons as a new batch of youngsters gear up for the 2017 TAC Cup are as promising as ever.

The Cannons boys’ and girls’ under-18 teams returned to RAMS Arena with a pair of practice matches against the Murray Bushrangers and the Northern Knights over the past fortnight.

Despite two defeats against the Knights on Sunday, coach Andrew Johnston is bullish about the TAC Cup team’s prospects for the new year.

“These [practice] games were more about the guys who either haven’t been around long or are coming back from injury,” Johnston- who has coached the side since 2014 following stints with the Gold Coast NEAFL team and the Vic Metro Under-16 squad- told Cannons Media.

“It gives us an opportunity to see where they’re at and where they stack up against other players.”

With this year’s TAC Cup squad announcement only a month away, the next few weeks will be crucial in determining who makes the cut in a highly competitive outfit.

“We’ll need to make decisions about who goes forward on our list over the coming weeks, and who goes back to play local footy,” Johnston said.

“The 17-year-old group that’s coming through have been pretty impressive, and they’ll be pushing for selection come Round 1, which is really pleasing for us.”

The Cannons have an impressive history when it comes to producing AFL players and Johnston is confident the new generation will continue that proud tradition.

“Usually, we have a bit of an idea about who might be pushing up - it might be one, two, might be three- and then we hope that two or three more throw their hat in the ring as well,” he said.

“It’s always a bit of an unknown at this stage. We have an educated guess, but these boys know they need to keep working and improving to give themselves that opportunity.”

With the women’s team’s list already finalised for the 2017 season, it was a case of close but no cigar as the Knights triumphed by a solitary point, 4.8 (32) to 5.1 (31) on Sunday, but there were plenty of positives to take from the match including an impressive conversion rate in front of goal.

And with 2016 graduate Zach Guthrie putting in an eye-catching debut for Geelong in their opening JLT Community Series match against Hawthorn at the weekend, racking up 24 disposals and 91 SuperCoach points, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a Cannon.


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