WORLD under-16 representative Tom Taurau will make his TAC Cup debut with North Ballarat Rebels on Saturday.
Taurau (Ararat Eagles) has been promoted for what it likely to be a physical test against Gippsland Power in a double-header at Oakleigh Chargers' home base.
He will play as the Rebels' 23rd man, a rule under which a debuting TAC cup player can line-up as the fifth man on a team's interchange for up to three consecutive weeks.
Taurau, whose father is from New Zealand, caught attention last season playing for a combined world team in the AFL under-16 national championships.
Fast-running defender Will Austin, unavailable and injured for most of the season, is also in line to play his first Rebels game for the year.
The Rebels chalked up two consecutive wins leading into a development round and are hungry to keep building for momentum and to stay in touch with competition leaders.
A growing self-belief was the key to a dominant final quarter that polished off a win against Northern Knights in their last outing.
Rebels coach David Loader said his players were learning all the time and, while there was still room to tighten their game, a clash with Power would be a great challenge.
"This becomes a really important game for us this week...we've got to get another win on the board for a little bit of momentum," Loader said.
"Gippsland is traditionally pretty physical, so it will test our boys out early in the game.
"We know we're capable of delivering really good footy, nice open play, but we're improving all the time."
The Rebels will feature all three players who featured in Vic Country's 15-point win against Vic Metro in the AFL under-18 national championships on Sunday.
Ruckman Rowan Marshall (Portland) and versatile midfielder Darcy Tucker (Horsham Saints) were among the best on ground.
Marshall, Tucker and Daniel Butler (Lake Wendouree) were named on Thursday in Country's 40-man squad to play out the championships along with Tom Templeton (Portland), who featured in a secondary Country-Metro trial match, and James Richards (Horsham Saints), who will make his return from a hamstring strain with the Rebels this week.
Rebels and Country talent manager Phil Partington said it was pleasing to have five Rebels in the final squad, which can still change during the course of the championships.
All division one teams must use 32 players through the carnival and Partington said selectors would keep a close eye on TAC Cup vision each week.
Country's next match is against South Australia on June 1.