Astrong squad hopes to lift Murray South East back to the top in the men’s SA Country Football Championships at Victor Harbor and Encounter Bay this weekend.
The representative team has a proud history at the two- day carnival featuring some of the top talent in the state having won three titles in four years from 2014 to 17.
The region’s players will compete at the championships and many of the leading Western Border, Mid South Eastern and Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara players are set for starring roles.
After leading Millicent back to the top, Clint Gallio has been named captain of the team while the vice-captains are Matt Willson and Scott Merrett from East Gambier and Penola respectively.
The zone side also boasts AFL, VFL and SANFL experience with former Port Adelaide listed player Tobin Cox named, while Curt McCarthy, Tom Whittlesea and Brad Crabb have played in the state leagues.
Adam Merrett returns to take on the coaching reigns for a fifth time and believes the team is one of the strongest he has ever sent to the championships.
“We were very lucky to have 41 committed guys to pick from, so we had some hard decisions to make,” he said.
“Some guys have changed their family holiday plans to play football because they are passionate about representative football, so we have an even side across the ground.
“Good forwards, mids and backs and the guys on the bench would normally start in a key position, so I am very excited about the depth we have.
“It is probably as good as any I have been involved in and we had some good players in 2017, but this year we have the top end talent and experience to give it a good shake.” With only WBFL and MSEFL taking part in this year’s interleague competition, selection for the zone team was not a simple task.
Usually players had to take part in the Limestone Coast Regional Carnival, but exemptions had to be made for the KNFTL representatives, while individual selectors focused on each league.
Another complication is the limited time available to train as a collective group as the final squad has only enjoyed two training sessions together.
Merrett said the restricted build up was just one of the challenges to the carnival with adaptability from the opening bounce pivotal to success.
“You have not got a lot of time to get it together, you just got to put some simple structures in place and hope things go your way,” he said “That is just how it is when you have such a large zone to cover, but they are all good footballers and you just have to make sure they are all playing to the same structure.
“It is so tight – one result can be the difference between winning and missing out, so the target is just to make the most of any opportunity and get the first win on the board.” Murray South East will be the final zone to start its campaign against Southern Districts at 12.30pm on Saturday before its final minor-round game with defending champion Central from 2.50pm.
A SANFL regional game between South Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows will take centre stage on Saturday afternoon at Victor Harbor, while the men’s final will be played at the same venue on Sunday from 1pm.