New talent zone for North Ballarat Rebels
The boundaries are officially changing for the next crop of TAC Cup talent in the Western District Commission from next season.
Under zone changes announced this week by AFL Victoria, the previous talent split of the Hampden Football Netball League and Warrnambool & District Football Netball League between North Ballarat Rebels and Geelong Falcons will no longer exist, with the Shire of Corangamite transferring to the Rebels program.
The continued growth and grading of the junior competitions in Geelong has resulted in fewer local players from the region making the Falcons squad in recent years.
North Ballarat Rebels Talent Manager Phil Partington said he looks forward to being able to provide more players with development opportunities from the Corangamite region.
“The change of zones will help avoid the confusion of which clubs in local leagues fall under the zone of the Rebels and the Falcons.
“We already have a great relationship with the clubs in our current zone, so we look forward to working with the new clubs and providing more opportunities for local players,” Partington said.
“Whether players make the Rebels program or not, we would hope they gain valuable experience from the training to help them when they return to their local clubs.”
The last zone changes occurred back in 2008, which saw Warrnambool fall under the North Ballarat Rebels program in a positive for the region.
The relationship has developed over the last six years with Warrnambool regularly hosting TAC Cup competition matches at Reid Oval, as recently as Round 13 this year between North Ballarat and Geelong Falcons, and has seen local footballers such as Louis Herbert - originating from South Warrnambool - reach the elite level, drafted as a rookie by Gold Coast Suns at the end of last season.
“The more people we can expose the TAC Cup competition and training to the better, as it gives up and coming local players a level to strive for and be a part of,” Partington said.
“We have seen 20 players drafted from the North Ballarat Rebels program over the last five years, so we aim to continue to provide a pathway and opportunities for these local footballers to develop their game both on and off the field, and either reach the elite level or be a better footballer when they return to local competitions.”
North Ballarat Rebels will now run five satellite training bases next year, with the new Hampden base joining sites at Ballarat, Wimmera (Horsham), South West (Hamilton) and Warrnambool.
Highly respected coach in the region Bernie Harris will be the squad coordinator, with Geelong Falcons coaches Matthew Harkin and Brett Taylor joining the Rebels program as U18 and U16 squad coaches respectively.
All players that were listed with the Geelong Falcons this season have been invited to trial with the Rebels, with a fitness testing session to kick off the preseason on Tuesday November 11.