GIPPSLAND Power produced some impressive football throughout 2017, doing enough to secure a finals spot with a seventh-placed finish. The Power had many contributors across the board throughout the season, but finished the year with just one AFL draftee – Callum Porter to the Western Bulldogs – while a number of others could consider themselves unlucky. In 2018, that number is expected to grow with a couple of developing talls and some exciting smalls, as well as 19 year-olds returning for a second chance.
The most talked about Gippsland prospect is captain Xavier Duursma, a tall utility who moves like an outside player but wins the football like an inside one. A really balanced ball winner, Duursma will focus on getting his hands on the ball a bit more and adding to his already impressive output from 2017. He managed to have a consistent season and covered many key areas well. Along with Duursma, the electrifying Irving Mosquito will be one recruiters keep a close eye on, as will the returning Tyrone Hayes who played just the one game last season.
Other 19 year-olds who have returned to the fold include Matthew McGannon, a lightly-built midfielder who could play off either flank. He was a classy user of the ball and unfortunately copped a near season-ending injury mid-season which kept him from getting back to his best – playing just the one final heading into the National Combine. Austin Hodge is another midfielder who will be looking to add more strings to his bow, sharpening up his kicking as an imposing inside midfielder. Others in the side that saw plenty of game time are Bailey Beck, Nick Lowden, Bailey Patterson and Grady Cocksedge (all 17 games), Kyle Reid (16), Boadie Motton (15) and Ryan Henkel (11).
They might not be eligible for this year’s draft, but the likes of Sam Flanders, Caleb Serong and Brock Smith are a trio of young stars set to light up the TAC Cup stage. They managed to play 11 games between them last year, after impressing at the National Under 16 Championships.
Last season the Power managed to bounce back with a finals appearance, but were ultimately shown up on the day by a dominant Geelong Falcons outfit, going down by 85 points. Prior to the finals series, the Power headed in tasting victory in four of the last five games – including an upset two-point win over Dandenong Stingrays and an 18-point victory over Murray Bushrangers in the final round. A slower start to the season meant the Power were playing catch-up football, and while they did manage to catch up, they will be hoping to build on their first week of finals exit.
Gippsland plays seven matches at its home ground in Morwell and will be hoping to make the most of those fixtures in 2018. The Power kick-off the season with a trip to Richmond where they face Murray Bushrangers, before hosting the Dandenong Stingrays in Round 2. The annual Country Triple Header occurs the week after, with the Power locking horns with Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval. It is just one of three country matches outside of Morwell that the Power will have to play.