GVL interleague coach turns to elite players

Quality, not quantity: New Goulburn Valley football interleague coach Paul Newman (third from left) and Kyabram players (from left) Brad Whitford, Kyle Mueller, Zac Norris, Tom Holman, Lachie Smith, Mick Mattingly and Kayne Pettifer, who were involved in the winning GVL team against the Western Region Football League at Werribee. Photo by Supplied

Goulburn Valley League football interleague coach Paul Newman will announce an “elite squad’’ of players later this week in preparation for the May 28 match against Ovens and Murray.

Newman said he would not be picking an expanded squad.

In fact, the first call he would make to players would be to confirm they “are in the team’’.

He said the selectors had picked the squad and were in the process of finalising the team.

"We are trying to streamline the process, but it has been made tough by the fact some of the league stars are injured,“ Newman said.

“We’ve been pillaged, actually.”

Kyabram star forward Kyle Mueller is nursing an ankle injury, Rochester’s Doug Wren is out for the season, Seymour onballer and reigning Morrison medallist Jack O’Sullivan is on the sidelines while Echuca gun and former AFL talent Sam Reid is still out with injury.

Echuca can expect to have several players in the team, but captain Kane Morris will not be one of them.

He has already told selectors he will be away for the weekend, taking advantage of the mid-season break.

“There will be a few more (Echuca players) this year. We need them to be well-represented, because they are the competition yardstick,” Newman said.

He said several Echuca players had indicated their initial interest in being involved and he was hopeful of a final commitment in the coming days.

Rochester star recruit Shaun Atley will be overseas when the game is played, but goal-sneak coach Steve Stroobants is a certain starter.

Newman said selectors were trying to make it as easy as possible for players to be involved.

“When we do announce the squad it will be the starting 22 and a couple of extra players,’’ he said.

Newman, who is back in the coaching role at Kyabram this year, is a former Goulburn Valley League 20-time representative who thrived on what he described as “next level’’ football.

He said he was excited about the opportunity of returning interleague football to its previous status and would be doing everything he could to help that happen.

Representative football has been put on hold since 2019, when the Goulburn Valley League was coached by former GV great, and Shepparton coach, Brad Campbell.

Campbell is now a selector with Newman’s 2022 squad, along with Kyabram great Lawrie Casey and Echuca co-coach Simon Maddox.

Maddox has been included on the selection panel in recognition of his outstanding success in tandem with Andrew Walker at Echuca.

The pair has taken Echuca to the status of premiership favourite and GVL supporters can expect a strong sprinkling of Murray Bombers in the league colours.

Newman said recognising that, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people had changed their priorities resulted in the change of format in selecting the team.

“We will have maybe two training runs beforehand,” he said, explaining the players would be guaranteed of a start for the May 28 match.

Newman said it would be the first game between the leagues in almost a decade.

“We used to play them quite a bit before the AFL got involved,” he said.

"It was probably every second year, but it would be a long while since the last game.“

Newman said he hoped the opportunity of playing with the best players in the competition was an attractive proposition for those selected in the team.

“I remember I loved the interleague process, forming new friendships and relationships,” he said.

“And we had a pretty good success rate against the O&M (league).

“The league was pretty strong. This time round I am anticipating they will be tough, they have named a strong squad.”

Several former AFL stars play in the Ovens and Murray League, including former Collingwood key position player Ben Reid, Sam Murray and Melbourne goal-kicker Michael Newton.

The O&M has taken a different route to Newman, naming a squad of 55 for the game that will be played at Mooroopna.

Newman said he expected the GVL team, while focused on the league’s best players, to have a few first-time representatives.

“We will give a few of the younger ones an opportunity,” he said.