Central Highlands Football League coach Clive Raak has turned to experienced defender Mark Gunnell to help lead the team’s defensive division in its AFL Victoria Community Championships showdown next month.
Gunnell has been appointed to the on-field coaching panel and will be handed the responsibility of looking after the backline during a battle with the Southern league on May 13.
The Gordon footballer has been a long-time supporter of the senior representative concept, playing in all five of the league’s matches since it joined the statewide championships in 2012.
In 2016, Springbank coach Michael Searl was named backline coach, but hasn’t put up his hand for selection this year.
Gunnell will join captain and midfield coach Jarrod Morgan in the on-field leadership team, with discussions still taking place in regards to a forward line leader.
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“I think he is going to relish the opportunity,” Raak said of Gunnell.
“He rarely gets beaten and is a very good organiser in the backline as well.
“He’s a very good communicator at ground level.”
Gunnell is one of 29 names on the RSM Central Highlands Football League’s initial training squad, which has been revealed ahead of this Sunday’s first session at Buninyong.
Among the names is a handful of new players to the league, including Rokewood-Corindhap trio Jarrod Thompson, Aaron Gercovich and Jake Dowell.
Five players from last year’s team – Christian Elliott, Will Young, Peter McGettigan, Tom Nijam and Marty Dufty – have left the competition and therefore won’t be part of the calculations.
In the initial list, 10 footballers have been named from last year’s side that suffered a disappointing four-point defeat at the hands of Geelong and District.
They are Gunnell brothers Mark and Luke, their Gordon teammates Chris McGuigan, Tye Murphy and Mick Nolan, skipper Morgan, Hepburn’s Segifili Asa Leausa, Dunnstown onballer Sam Jenkins, Beaufort star Jack Duke and Daylesford talent Seb Walsh.
Other players in the group of 29 include Springbank star Billy Driscoll and premiership-winning Tigers teammates Justin Simpson, Joel Maher, Matt Tyler and Nick Couch.
Daniel Rees, who has returned to Hepburn in 2017, is there, as is important Waubra duo Lincoln Barnes and Matt Dawson.
Raak said the initial squad will be extended following this weekend’s round three matches and can be added to in the lead-up to the match.
“It will be good to see a few games of these guys and the extra guys we are trying to look at,” Raak said.
Raak anticipates a tough clash with the Southern league, but admits it’s hard to know.
He expects his rivals to be strong given the three divisions of competition selectors can choose players from.
Daylesford midfielder/forward Ken Cummings is one of the players in the Central Highlands squad, but will get to play just once more before the AFL Victoria Community Championships weekend.
Cummings was handed a two-week suspension at the tribunal on Tuesday night after he was reported in the round two showdown against Hepburn.
He had his number taken for making contact to the Burras’ Sean Salmon using the head.