Five Goulburn Valley footballers will have the prestige of playing for their state tomorrow, but had to relinquish lining up with their club to do so.
Rochester pair Nathan Marrone and Steven Stroobants, Kyabram’s Zac Norris, Shepparton’s Luke Smith and Tatura’s Chris Ryan will miss a GVL game to feature for Victoria Country against VAFA.
The Tigers duo as well as Ryan will take the field in the senior side, while Smith and Norris form a part of the under-19 squad.
For the past three years the annual challenge between the bush and the city has come during a league bye, meaning no player has been forced to choose between state or club.
Major country leagues Ovens and Murray, Geelong and Bendigo all have the week off, while Gippsland and Ballarat follow the form of the GVL and will continue to play.
Rochester coach James Flaherty will be without Marrone, who is in spectacular form, as well as his side’s leading goal-kicker in Stroobants for a crucial match against Seymour.
‘‘We’ll have to change a few things, ‘Stroobs’ and Nath have been playing a fair bit on the ball and that’s Seymour’s strength,’’ he said.
‘‘Absolutely (a bye would be preferred). I would have gone down and watched. We’ve always had a bye the last few years and I’m not sure what it is down to, but they’re two pretty good players for our side.’’
But Flaherty said there was no hesitation in the two taking up the chance to play for Vic Country.
‘‘They’re in different sorts of places, Stroobs has been about the Vic Country side for the last two or three years and knows what it is about and that level of footy he enjoys,’’ he said.
‘‘Nath Marrone, the way he has gone about his footy, he’s getting his rewards.’’
The last time Goulburn Valley football was played in the same weekend as the representative match was in 2013 during a split round.
Benalla playing coach Luke Morgan made the difficult decision to give up competing in a state side to stay and lead his club.
Key Saints players in Sam Martyn, Lachie Smith and Jake Pallpratt were also included in the Vic Country senior side, which impacted his choice.
But with just four clubs affected by the five players missing, most of the league’s coaches still said they would have welcomed a bye around this time in the season.
Teams last had a rest for the Goulburn Valley versus Ovens and Murray interleague encounter on May 13 and will next get a week off at the start of August with round 16 split across two weeks.
Tomorrow Vic Country will play a VAFA side bolstered with former AFL players as it travels to Frankston City Oval to try and retain the Brian Molony Cup.
Marrone has every chance of continuing his superb run of form against the stirling VAFA line up, with the Rochester star GVL’s best player during its interleague clash.
Smith returns to play in the under-19 match having represented Vic Country last year, while Zac Norris has become a permanent member of the Bombers’ all-conquering senior side this year.
Ned Nihill is the only Murray league representative, with the former Murray Bushranger playing his senior football at Nathalia.
Former Eagle to captain VAFA
Former Mansfield star George Burbury will lead the VAFA out against Victoria Country tomorrow at Frankston Oval.
Burbury had played a season with the Eagles in 2015 after his AFL career at Geelong finished at the end of 2014.
It was a huge coup for Mansfield, with Burbury having mates at the Goulburn Valley League club, including fellow Tasmanian-born Eagle Ben Fagan.
Burbury transferred to VAFA club Old Geelong last year, booting 41 goals in 13 games as his team won the division one flag.
He won’t be the only ex-AFL player turning out for the VAFA, with former Western Bulldogs and Carlton player Jason Tutt at De La Salle this year.
Viv Michie (Fremantle and Melbourne) and Mitch Brown, who played 94 games at West Coast, are also in the VAFA team.
But the biggest name to be out there will be former St Kilda star forward Stephen Milne, who is playing with Beaumaris.
These players will ensure the VAFA will be hard to beat as it aims to turn around the disappointment of a big defeat to Victoria Country in the last battle for the Brian Molony Cup in 2015.
Vic Country dominated in the match at Bendigo, with former Rochester superstar Grant Weeks slotting seven goals, while Tigers ace Steven Stroobants had a good day out.
Fellow Goulburn Valley stars Will Martiniello (former Benalla champion) and Tim Looby (former Shepparton United coach) also took the field for Vic Country.