Mark Gunnell the man to skipper Highlanders

LEADING THE WAY: Central Highlands senior coach Clive Raak and captain Mark Gunnell at training on Thursday night.

LEADING THE WAY: Central Highlands senior coach Clive Raak and captain Mark Gunnell at training on Thursday night.

Gordon’s Mark Gunnell has been named captain of the Central Highlands Football League senior team that will take on Riddell District on Saturday afternoon.

The experienced defender has taken over the job from long-time skipper Jarrod Morgan, who won’t play at the weekend due to a calf injury.

Gunnell told The Courier it was a great honour to be given the role of leading the side.

“There’s a lot of blokes we play against that are good quality players, and to play with them instead of against them will be enjoyable I reckon,” the 27-year-old said.

Gunnell has played in all of the Highlanders’ interleague matches since the senior representative side was reignited in 2012.

He has long been one of the competition’s premier defenders and will have an important role to play on a Riddell District key forward this weekend.

Central Highlands coach Clive Raak said Gunnell had been a fantastic player for the league and was deserving of being captain.

“He has a huge amount of respect amongst the footy community in the Central Highlands,” Raak said.

“He has been first class. The way he handles himself, the way he plays football, he’s a good organiser and director on the ground.

“He brings a lot to the table. I think it’s a great reward for Mark and he was really thrilled with the opportunity to lead the side.”

Injuries to a number of top players has made for some selection headaches for Raak and his coaching panel.

As a result, onballers Joel Maher (Bungaree) and Tim Brayshaw (Buninyong) are among the late additions to the squad, which lost Bombers winger Jarrod Rodgers to a hamstring strain on Thursday night.

Despite the long list of league stars that are absent, Raak was keen to focus on the positives and believed a major strength to his side was its versatility.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can play in multiple roles, which is a good thing,” Raak said.

“If we are struggling in a certain area, we can change it around, which we did last year. And that got us back into the game. Hopefully we won’t be in that situation where we have to change our side around much, but we know that we have always got something up our sleeve.”

Raak is in his third campaign as senior coach of the CHFL, which has lost by four points during the last two years. In 2016, Geelong and District proved too strong before the Southern league got the result in 2017.

“The guys were really disappointed last year so hopefully we can turn things around this year,” he said.

Riddell District will again be coached by Arron Bray, who guided the side to victory in his first year in the job in 2017.

The RDFL boys were too good for West Gippsland in that clash.

Saturday’s AFL Victoria Community Championships clash will be played at Buninyong and is scheduled to start at 2.15pm.