A BROKEN nose won’t stop Bendigo Pioneer Jaden McGrath playing in the national under-18 championships.
But Victoria Country is taking a cautious approach with the Kerang midfielder, who copped the injury in the Pios’ loss to Dandenong Stingrays at the weekend.
McGrath, 16, will miss round one against the Northern Territory in Darwin on Saturday, but could still line up for the Pios against Geelong Falcons at Craigieburn.
“Jaden got an accidental knock. He could have gone, but the doctor yesterday (Sunday) decided to err on the side of caution,” Victoria Country coach Mark Ellis said yesterday.
“He remains in the squad and will certainly be available for selection next game.
“He may even play his TAC Cup round this weekend – they were just concerned with the flights.”
Lalbert’s Jake Maher, 17, will be the sole Pioneer to pull on the “Big V” this weekend.
“He’s a guy who works really hard, runs well and takes a good mark for his side and he will go to Darwin,” Ellis said.
Sandhurst’s Isaiah Miller will be held back until at least round two against Tasmania.
The 18-year-old AIS-AFL Academy squad member’s versatility will be handy later in the campaign against South Australia, WA and Victoria Metro.
“Isaiah Miller probably, from the games I’ve seen, played his best game on the weekend against Dandenong Stingrays playing across half-back,” Ellis said.
“He works really hard, he’s got a good work ethic and certainly has earned the opportunity to play in the nationals.
“He can play in a variety of positions.”
“I can see him playing at half-forward or as a wingman, so he’s certainly versatile and could develop a few more strings to his bow,” Ellis said.
Ellis, in his second year in charge of Victoria Country, is mindful of balancing player development with the desire to win.
“Let’s face it, you always want to win, but if you were just going out to win straight-out you’d just pick your best 22 and play your best 22 all the time,” he said.
“Leon Harris, the high performance manager, does a terrific job in balancing giving boys the opportunity to play.
“You do want to win but you need to make sure you’re developing these boys.”
The former Bendigo Pioneers coach took great pleasure in seeing Ollie Wines and Jake Stringer drafted from last year’s Victoria Country team to Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs respectively.
“They always had the attributes to go further,” he said.
“They certainly had that driving ambition to play at the highest level.
“It’s no surprise they are where they are now.
“It’s terrific to see because obviously they did work really hard.”
Victoria Country play Northern Territory at TIO Stadium from 4pm on Saturday.
In other matches, Queensland host Victoria Metro on Sunday, before NSW-ACT take on South Australia and Tasmania plays Western Australia in Launceston the following weekend.