MURRAY Bushrangers head into 2018 as one of the more experienced sides, having a total of 25 players on their list that played in season 2017. Of those players, seven played 10 or more games. The Bushrangers are spoilt by choice with a number of talented talls and smalls to spread across their line-up, including three TAC Cup experienced ruckmen in Mark Marriott, Floyd Bollinghaus and Ben Kelly. They made the finals last season and with more talent coming into the club, they will be aiming keep up with the best sides at the business end of the season.
In 2018, the Bushrangers’ top prospect is Zane Barzen, and you can see why fans are excited about seeing the talented midfielder/forward this season. He is one of the TAC Cup’s best kicks, and is that prototype midfielder who could substitute as a key position player if required. He was damaging offensively last season and will be looking to build on the contested side of his game, which will come naturally with increased midfield minutes. Along with Barzen, key position swingman Hudson Garoni is a name to remember, the mobile tall is able to play practically anywhere on the field. Marriott is a another mobile big-man that has intrigued many with his dominance in the ruck last season and that is expected to continue in 2018, and it will be interesting to see if he develops another string to his bow up forward.
Talls Jordon Butts and Thomas Boyd, and running defender Laitham Vandermeer are among those who have returned to the club as 19 year-olds, although Butts could only barely be considered an overager, born on December 31 making him eligible for last year’s draft by a single day. With some interest in the trio last year, good seasons could see them receive renewed interest in 2018. Others who received valuable game time last season are Kyle Clarke (18 games), Jacob Koschitzke (10), Ely Smith (nine) and Matthew Walker (eight).
Every year the Murray Bushrangers are among the most competitive teams, with spectators always knowing that a four-quarter effort is on the cards. The Bushrangers raced away winning six of the first seven games, and by round 12 had just three losses – Geelong Falcons, Oakleigh Chargers and Dandenong Stingrays – three of the top five clubs in the league. But it was all downhill after that, with just one win – an 82-point thumping of Bendigo Pioneers – to finish off the season. The Bushrangers dropped games against Calder Cannons, GWV Rebels – after being 43 points up at the final break – Northern Knights and Gippsland Power, all of whom failed to win a final in 2017. However their early season form saw them make finals. After a strong first quarter against Sandringham Dragons in their finals appearance they were ultimately outclassed, going down by 51 points.
There should be a buoyant mood surrounding the Bushrangers in 2018, with so many experienced players taking part in the program again. With a number of top-end talents and of course, plenty of depth, Murray will be up there with the top clubs when finals come knocking. The Bushrangers will call the Swinburne Centre and Deakin Reserve home for the first two rounds respectively, taking on the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power to open their season. In round three, Murray heads north for the Country Triple Header to face Geelong Falcons at Queen Elizabeth Oval, before the Bushrangers first ‘home’ game at Wangaratta in round four. Murray plays four games at Wangaratta and one in Albury throughout the season.