VIC Country’s TAC Cup representatives dominated the 2015 home and away season, occupying the top four spots and five of the top eight spots on the ladder. Unfortunately for them, what has been a common theme in recent years, is the return to full-strength of Oakleigh Chargers and Eastern Ranges, caused a series of upsets and charged from fifth and sixth respectively to win through to a grand final. In 2016, the country teams have a number of strong representatives that could see them pull off a premiership victory.
For the first time in a while, Bendigo Pioneers have greater depth across their list, which could legitimately see them jump up the ladder, having been the perrenial underperformer of the past two decades. They have a number of talented players, and led by Kobe Mutch, and bottom-ager Joe Atley, the Pioneers could provide some surprises in 2016.
The name on any Dandenong Stingrays fans lips is Josh Battle, a key forward who moves well and cause headaches for the opposition side. Myles Poholke is another one to watch for the Stingrays, while many will keep a keen eye on Tom Jok, Thomas Glen and key forward Travis Young who have returned to Dandenong as over-agers.
Geelong Falcons are always strong and in 2016, the top name to watch our for is Alex Witherden. A talented rebounding defender, Witherden impressed last season and will be one to watch in 2016. The Falcons are blessed with plenty of depth across all lines, although their key position stocks is smaller than in recent years. Zachary Zdybel has shown glimpses and will be required to step up, while Brett Blair, unlucky not to get a look-in last year, will return as an over-ager.
Gippsland Power will be an interesting team to watch in 2016, with a number of key smaller players likely to keep TAC Cup onlookers interested. For this year’s draft, small forward-cum midfielder Ben Ainsworth will be the player most likely to find an AFL home at the end of the year, while Tyrone Hayes and Aidan Quigley are among those likely to impress as bottom-agers.
Murray Bushrangers have a host of strong names in 2016, led by Will Brodie and Jy Simpkin. Both players could be first round prospects following a good year, while Matthew Neagle will be one watched by Essendon fans. Zachary Sproule impressed last year as a key forward and will be handed the number one forward role this season.
At North Ballarat Rebels, rebounding defender Jarrod Berry and tall midfielder-forward Jarrod Korewha are the leading prospects in 2016. Both players are impressive types and are likely to provide plenty of highlights. Korewha missed most of 2015 through injury, so there will be plenty interested to see what he has to offer. Others to watch include Shannon Beks. Hugh McCluggage and over-ager Jacob Wheelahan who looked impressive before injury last year.