North Ballarat Rebels hopefuls test their skills at St Patrick's College

THE heat is on for this year’s crop of North Ballarat Rebels players, with the club conducting its annual skills and testing day at Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College Oval yesterday.

More than 100 draft hopefuls and TAC Cup aspirants from across regional Victoria took part in a range of physical tests in their first serious hit-out since the pre-season Christmas break.

Overseen by Rebels coaching and fitness staff, the athletes pushed themselves in a range of drills including repeat 20-metre sprints and a three-kilometre time trial in the morning, followed by a one-hour skills session in the afternoon.

The Rebels will start full pre-season training next week and are set to start practice matches on February 12, which the coaching staff will use to trim the final squad down from 140 to 44 or 45.

“This is the first time we’ve seen them since mid-December after they had a fairly rigorous start to the pre-season back in November last year,” North Ballarat Rebels talent manager Phil Partington said.

“This is our last opportunity to see the testing results in regards to their speed, height and weight – and we’ll also be able to see who’s being doing the off-season work, who’s improved their running times and who has hasn’t improved.

“Every boy will play at least two trial games, and from there we will start releasing the boys back to their local footy and at the start of March we will release the final squad.

“As a coaching staff we are very pleased with the boys – you can just tell that they’ve done a lot of work over that six week period.”

Although the Rebels had a mediocre year on the stats sheet in season 2013 – notching up just two wins and 15 losses from its 17 games in the TAC Cup – Partington gave the season a tick, given that the club produced three AFL draftees in Matt Crouch (Adelaide), Dallas Willsmore (Hawthorn) and Louis Herbert (Gold Coast).

And this year’s crop of talent, he says, looks every bit as promising.

“We look at the win-loss ratios (of last year) and the Rebels weren’t great in that regard, but we still had three players drafted and given that our mantra is to get as many boys as possible to AFL level, this made us ecstatic as a club,” Partington said.

Potential Rebels are put through their paces at the club’s skills and testing day.

Potential Rebels are put through their paces at the club’s skills and testing day.