GREATER Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels finished eleventh overall last season, avoiding the wooden spoon but also missing finals. The Rebels were competitive through most matches, with often one quarter of lost concentration costing them in tight games. They were not without their moments however, fighting back from a 43-point deficit against Murray Bushrangers at three quarter time late in the season to record a memorable win with a last quarter surge. It is unlikely to be a game forgotten anytime soon.
In 2018, the Rebels have a number of top-end prospects who are likely to form a strong nucleus in the midfield. Thomas Berry is one of the Rebels’ top talents, with the brother of Brisbane’s Jarrod hoping to overcome the injuries which plagued him in 2017. The rugged inside midfielder is a damaging player who spreads well and looks to break through opposition teams, while laying bone-crunching tackles. If he can tidy up his disposal further, he will be one to keep an eye on this year. Likewise, other smaller prospects include Matty Lloyd and Scott Carlin, both of whom have sublime skills when given time and space. Both predominantly played in defence last season so a natural midfield progression is expected in 2018.
On the tall end of the scale, ruck/forward Tylar Watts began to really come into his own late in the season, taking contested marks and presenting inside 50 after resting from his ruck duties. With another pre-season behind him, Watts could develop into the Rebels’ focal point up forward and do some serious damage in 2018. Others to keep an eye on include the dangerous Jed Hill and Charlie Wilson, as well as the likes of Matt Schnerring (11 games), Josh Chatfield (eight), Elliot Lamb (eight) Angus Gove (seven), Lochie Dawson (seven) and Joel O’Connell (five) – all of whom tasted some TAC Cup action last season. Remarkably, the Rebels do not have a 19 year-old on their list, a rare sight for the TAC Cup competition, but also indicating the strength of their bottom-agers and what they could do in 2019.
Last season the Rebels started slowly with three straight losses before huge back-to-back wins over the Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges got them back on track. The next nine games did not make for pretty reading for the Rebels, dropping seven of them while sharing the spoils with the Northern Knights. A win over the Western Jets was the only celebration in that time. An improved effort in the final month saw the Rebels spoil the Bushrangers’ party by a goal in the famous comeback, while also knocking off a full-strength Bendigo Pioneers in the final round. A devastating 21-point defeat at the hands of Calder Cannons at home ultimately cost the Rebels a place in the finals series, although it was always going to be tough after the mid-season drop-off.
In 2018 the Rebels’ bottom-age players that have returned will be raring to improve on their 2017 efforts. They yet again have a really young side, and plenty of bottom-agers that are only going to get better as the season goes on. Their midfield should be strong and while their talls are mostly new, having Watts as a target will help. It is hard to judge where the Rebels will finish this season, but with the focus on development, most eyes will be watching how their top prospects develop over the season and how many can land on AFL lists. They start their season with a home game against last year’s wooden spooners Bendigo, before back-to-back baptisms of fire against Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays in what will be great challenges for the young Rebels side. With seven games at home this season, the Rebels families and friends will get plenty of opportunities to watch their boys in action.