Thunder players Justin Beugelaar, Ben Rioli, Adam Sambono, Daniel Weetra have all been named in the initial 2017 North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) representative squad to take on the Tasmanian State League (TSL) in Hobart next month.
All six non-AFL NEAFL clubs are represented in the initial 40-player squad, with current ladder leaders Sydney University best represented with 13 players, followed by Aspley Hornets, Canberra Demons and Southport Sharks with six each.
The squad features 12 former AFL-listed players – Gavin Grose, Sam Martyn, Xavier Richards, Jack Hiscox, Zac O’Brien, Clay Cameron, Sam Michael, Jack Anthony, Andrew Boston, Seb Tape, Kade Klemke and Hamish Shepheard – plus 11 NEAFL Team of the Year members.
The squad also boasts some of the competition’s best young talent, including last year’s Rising Star winner, Redland’s Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds, and three of the six 2017 nominees so far who have been rewarded for their impressive starts to the season.
The side will be coached by AFL Queensland Hall of Fame member and Aspley premiership coach, John Blair, with Redland Football Manager, Martin King, the Chairman of Selectors. Blair will be supported by assistants Peter Ryan (Aspley assistant coach), Tom Morrison (Sydney University head coach) and Jon Harper (Canberra assistant coach).
King said the NEAFL representative panel wanted the 2017 squad to reflect the nature of an aspiring competition which continues to develop in standard. “We want the squad to reflect the nature of the competition, and that’s a combination of young, aspirational players with some experienced and established players who have been playing at club level for a long period of time,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to taking on a traditional football market where playing state footy really means a lot, whereas we’re representing states and territories, and our league. “The logistics around our squad is a little bit harder, but we think we’ve got a good product, and the players we’ve chosen are really keen to play and represent our competition.”
The 40-player squad will take part in a training camp in Brisbane next weekend before the squad is trimmed in the week leading up to the June 10 clash at Blundstone Arena. King said it will be an important step in building player camaraderie as the NEAFL looks to win its first representative match outside their states and territories.
“It’s not only an opportunity to help the players get to know each other, but the coaches as well,” he said.
“For the players, it’s a social environment but also one where they can set some goals and build relationships. It will be valuable to us.” The NEAFL and TSL last played in 2015 in Brisbane, where the NEAFL won a historic first representative match as a combined league when they beat the TSL by 20 points.
2017 NEAFL Representative Squad
Gavin Grose, Jordan Hayden, James Ives, James Nelis, Reece Toye, Will Wolbers (Aspley), Jordan Harper, Kade Klemke, Mitch Maguire, Sam Martyn, Andrew Swan, Lucas Meline (Canberra), Justin Beugelaar, Ben Rioli, Adam Sambono, Daniel Weetra (NT Thunder), Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds, Clay Cameron, Craig Malone, Sam Michael, Jack Rolls (Redland), Jack Anthony, Andrew Boston, Matt Fowler, Jordan Keras, Hamish Shepheard, Seb Tape (Southport), Darcy Baron-Hay, Tim Barrett, Tim Barton, Damien Bonney, Nathan Cooper, Aaron Day, Jack Dimery, Ryan Hebron, Zac O’Brien, Jack Hiscox, Ned Reinhard, Xavier Richards, Jonathan Williams (Sydney University).