Pioneers primed to impress against Metro

SEVEN players from the Bendigo Bank Pioneers will aim to fire in Sunday’s AFL Victoria Young Guns match at Carlton’s Visy Park.

Pioneers team-mates Liam Barrett, Harry Conway, Billy Evans, Danny Jones, Fergus Payne, Blake Poyser and Josh Ryan will join forces as Victoria Country takes on Victoria Metro.

A training camp is on tomorrow at Maribyrnong in the lead-up to Sunday’s clash to be played from noon.

The weekend is aimed at selection for next year’s AFL Academy program and the national under-18 championships.

Selection was based on TAC Cup performances and recommendations from club coaches and regional managers in the state’s elite under-18s competition.

Strathfieldsaye Storm’s Harry Conway and Fergus Payne are rapt about the opportunity to train and play with and against many of the best bottom-age players from TAC Cup clubs.

Payne has starred in his onball role for the Pioneers.

“This is the first Victorian squad I have been invited to try out for,” Payne said yesterday.

He was a key defender in a many matches for Storm in the Bendigo Junior Football League and quickly adapted to being a ruck-rover or in the centre.

“A key this season was to attack the contest a lot more, and to work on my kicking,” Payne said.

Conway has fought back from a mini form-slump to regain his place in the Pioneers team.

“This weekend will be a great learning experience,” said the 17-year-old who has switched between full-forward, a flank, and defence for Bendigo.

Conway said returning to Storm’s under-18s and then playing his first senior game in the win at Golden Square had helped lift his confidence.

South Bendigo’s Blake Poyser has mainly played across half-forward or a wing for the Pioneers.

“There’s been a lot to work at and keep improving, but a big area for me was defensive pressure,” Poyser said.

“One per-cent plays such as tackling, chasing, smothering are important in every game we play,” he said of the message given by Pioneers coach David Newett.

South Mildura’s Josh Ryan relocated to Bendigo and is studying at Bendigo Senior Secondary College alongside many Pioneers clubmates.

The key defender said every match was a great challenge.

“I’ve been against taller and heavier opponents most games.

He said watching North Melbourne’s Scott Thompson compete against the power forwards each round was an inspiration.

The versatility of Sandhurst’s Billy Evans, dash and skill by Kyabram’s Liam Barrett from half-back, and strength of Storm’s Danny Jones at centre half-back in their games have caught the attention of those deciding on next year’s academy intake.  



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