Pioneers on big stage

By Nathan Dole
Updated November 7 2012 - 2:26am, first published May 28 2009 - 11:42am
DRAFT HOPEFULS: Pioneers team-mates Kallen Geary, Dustin Martin, Shane Page and Jordan Williams. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY
DRAFT HOPEFULS: Pioneers team-mates Kallen Geary, Dustin Martin, Shane Page and Jordan Williams. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

COUNTRY tackles metro in the all-Victorian clash at the AFL national under-18 football championships this Sunday at Geelong’s Skilled Stadium.Bendigo Pioneers clubmates Kallen Geary, Dustin Martin and Shane Page will be aiming to kick off the five-match campaign with a victory.The trio will be trying to emulate the feat of another of the Pioneers’ young stars, Jordan Williams, who was best afield for NSW-ACT in a 25-point win last Saturday at Carlton’s Visy Park.Geary and Martin will represent Victoria Country for the first time, while for Kyneton-based Page it’s the fourth year in a row he has played at national titles.A year ago, Page was on a wing at the under-18 titles in a Victoria Country line-up that included Pioneers teammates Jake Hall, Josh Gaylor and Julian Lockwood.A lengthy selection process kicked off in the early rounds of the AFL Victoria TAC Cup under-18 competition.A squad of 50 was eventually whittled down to 25.“To be selected for Victoria Country is a great honour,’’ Page said.The run for the wingman or half-back flanker has included wearing the Big V at under-15s, under-16 and under-18 level.Page said this Sunday’s battle with Victoria Metro would be a huge test for the team.“Victoria Metro won all five matches last year and will be a really strong team,’’ Page said.The Robert Hyde-coached Victoria Country will be trying to break metro’s dominance.In round one last year, Victoria Metro beat Victoria Country by three points.Page’s pace will be a key to Victoria Country’s play.“Over summer I worked on trying to gain some more pace,’’ said Page.He did so in sessions with Bendigo Thousand winner, Glenn Stephens of Eaglehawk.“The running sessions were once a week for about two-and-a-half months,’’ said Page.“It’s helped a lot this season,’’ he said of being at more contests for the Pioneers and also in the selection trials.Rising star in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football League in 2008, Castlemaine’s Dustin Martin has kicked on to be playing a key role for the Pioneers and now Victoria Country.In Sunday’s battle with Victoria Metro, Martin is likely to play ruck-rover and then move to full-forward or a pocket.“It’s a role similar to what I have been playing for the Pioneers this year.’’Greater fitness and workrate were two of Martin’s goals leading into this year.His ability to break free of tackles and precise disposal have set up a lot of Pioneers’ attacks this season.Martin first played junior football with Campbells Creek before crossing to Castlemaine.He represented Bendigo at under-15 schoolboys.In 2007, Martin played for Campbelltown Blues in the Sydney AFL before returning to Castlemaine last season.He capped an outstanding year with the Magpies by being runner-up in the club best and fairest award.Winner of the Neville Strauch Medal as the Pioneers’ club champion in 2008, Kallen Geary has strived to keep on improving all areas of his game.A wingman last season, Geary has played as first rover for the Mark Ellis-coached Pioneers in 2009.The young star from Eaglehawk is tipped to line up in a back pocket in Sunday’s first-round match at the national titles.“It’s a new role for me, but a challenge I am looking forward to,’’ he said.Being able to play defence, midfield, attack or on-ball role is a major strength of Geary’s game.“I was rapt to be selected to play for Victoria Country for the first time,’’ Geary said.In the lead-up to this season, he spent a fair amount of time in the gym building up strength.The keen teenager also gains plenty of tips from older brothers Daniel, Shannon and Jarryn, who has starred in St Kilda’s unbeaten run.Eight days after starring in NSW-ACT’s win against Queensland, Jordan Williams will be back on the field for the Pioneers against the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup under-18 clash on Sunday at Golden Square.Williams racked up 26 possessions from a wing as NSW-ACT beat Queensland Scorpions by 25 points.“It was a great win,’’ Williams said of the Blues’ triumph that included many of the young stars from the Guy McKenna-coached Gold Coast team that is in its debut season in the TAC Cup.“Playing on a wing was a new role for me,’’ said the Pioneers’ centreman.From Echuca, Williams has marked a hat-trick of national championship campaigns.He represented the Blues at the under-16s in 2007, and then under-18s last year.A busy build-up for the NSW-ACT under-18 team included a week-long training camp in Coffs Harbour in January.“We played six shortened matches and in various positions,’’ Williams said.The Danny Stevens-coached NSW-ACT will be on home turf for its second-round match against Victoria Metro.For Williams, a major goal this year was winning more contests, especially at centre bounces.“The past couple of games with the Pioneers were a lot better than earlier in the year.“Confidence is up after last week’s match, but I have to keep on working hard, quarter by quarter, match by match.’’Many Pioneers have represented Victoria Country or NSW-ACT since the club’s first year in 1993.Pioneers to have played at national under-18 titles and kicked on to the AFL include Rowan Warfe, Nick Carter, Damien Lock, Michael Braun, Nathan Brown, Nathan Thompson, Mark Alvey, Dean Solomon, Chris Tarrant, Brent Guerra, Daniel Harris, Corey Jones, Kane Munro and Luke Livingstone.Add players the calibre of Nick Dal Santo, Rick Ladson, Troy Selwood, Ben McGlynn, Colin Sylvia, Andrew Walker, Joel Selwood, Daniel Connors, Scott Selwood and Robbie Tarrant, and the Pioneers have a proud history in representative football.Kallen Geary, Dustin Martin, Shane Page and Jordan Williams are determined to play their part in a successful 2009 campaign for the Vics and NSW-ACT Blues.

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