Tate Marsh: The next Dale Thomas

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Photo: Kate from Gippsland Power

In 2005, Gippsland Power listed a skinny, shaggy-haired midfielder by the name of Dale Thomas. Almost 10 years on, Power’s talent manager Peter Francis is dumbfounded by the striking comparisons between the now AFL star, and a young lad from Traralgon, by the name of Tate Marsh.

“By gee, they’ve got one here, the Power. He’s going to be a star, this kid,”  TAC Cup Commentators Phil Crooks and Rick Morris spoke in disbelief of Marsh’s run and carry through the midfield, setting up a memorable goal for the Power early in the game.

At first glance, Tate Marsh looks like just another skinny and shy 17 year-old, but out on the football field, the ball just finds him, seemingly having it arrogantly on a string. But arrogant, is something that Marsh is not. The shy, no-fuss midfielder with a cheeky grin understands that he’s got some time to go before a shot at landing at an AFL club through the National Draft in 2015 comes around.

At just 68 kilograms, there isn’t much of him, which is why he leaves onlookers speechless with his ferociousness, aggression and his team-first instincts that make him appear to be playing 10 kilograms above his weight. Marsh looks like a choirboy, but plays like a junkyard dog. He is unforgiving in his disposal, and displays maturity beyond his years for a player who is still only a boy.

But playing under-18 football is something that remarkably isn’t foreign to Marsh. In 2013, he impressed his senior coaches so much – running amok for Power’s development side in the under 16’s, that he earned himself a senior selection, and on debut he didn’t let his older teammates down. “I was only a small kid then, and I still am,” Marsh said of the experience. “I didn’t get too much game time, but it was a great experience.”

What Marsh didn’t know, was that he had left an impression on the coaching staff, cracking into packs, putting his body on the line and showing courage beyond his years. After everything the Power threw at him during the try-outs for the 2014 squad, Marsh kept responding. And after a faultless preseason, a round 1 birth was justified, and again – he didn’t let his coaches down. But it didn’t come without its pregame nerves.

Marsh has a rare mix of speed and composure. He understands his disposal is his weapon, and has honed his craft to offer up an exciting blend of football that makes him hard to miss. Where most kids would blaze away, Marsh has the maturity to always find a target and put the ball into dangerous areas for his leading forwards. His blonde whip of hair bounces in the wind, and a brief side step around an opponent before perfect delivery doesn’t seem to surprise anyone from the Power camp, anymore.

It’s fair to say that Marsh is humbled, yet slightly embarrassed by the hype that’s surrounded him. However, he’s starting to understand the position former Collingwood premiership player, now Gippsland coach Leigh Brown has set out for him. When the game was on the line, Marsh burrowed into packs, threw himself at the ball, or laid a bone-crunching tackle that took down an opposition player who was 13 kilograms heavier. Marsh defies his size. He just gives you everything.

Although Marsh was voted inside the top 5 of TAC Cup Radio’s player of the day, with an impressive stat line of 26 disposals, five marks, 13 handball receives and a goal,  Marsh said his nerves before the game were something he struggled to control.

“I was pretty nervous before hand, and I knew what to expect, but after the first five minutes when I came to the bench, I was spent and struggling to breathe a little bit, but I got through it, and the ball sort of kept finding me, which was good”

The 15-minute drive would’ve felt like a lifetime for Marsh, who counts himself as one of the lucky ones, given he’s just down the road from the Power’s home ground, when some of his teammates come in from over an hour away. When describing his strengths, Marsh outlines his running speed and transition work as key part of his game. “Probably my running speed is my biggest strength, and finding space around the ground to use it,” he said.

But in a day an age in which disposal is king, Marsh has an impressive skill set that allows him to do some pretty crafty things with the ball. He is balanced on both sides of his body, so much so that you wouldn’t know which side is his preferred. “It’s sort of being something I’ve been working on since I was younger, in the under 10’s and under 12’s. My previous coaches really wanted me to work on it, so it’s something I’ve really focused on.”

Although Marsh believes his weakness is his contested ball, the gutsy midfielder has found a way around that, believing that if he can’t win it, the best he can do for his side is hold the opposition up, whether that be by laying a tackle, forcing stoppage, or pushing the ball forward to gain territory for his side that doesn’t necessarily result in a statistic.

But when asked what his personal goals were for the year, Marsh said it was all about maintaining his spot in the side, whether that was by improvement in areas, or just constantly showing a team-first attitude that’s required when playing for the Power. “I just want to play good footy, and keep my spot in the side.”

Some kids were just born to play football, and for Gippsland Power’s Tate Marsh, the words could not ring truer.

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