The best of AFL Canberra will go head-to-head with AFL Sydney’s cream of the crop for the Carter-Jesaulenko Shield at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday.
Sydney were convincing winners in the corresponding clash last year, but the NEAFL restructure has strengthened the Canberra side, with more of the region’s best now eligible for selection.
Belconnen Magpies legend Brendan Read has been handed the reigns for the Canberra First Grade side, and says that his troops are ready for the challenge.
“It definitely pitches our league against their league.
“A lot of people play with a lot of pride for their football clubs, and they pull each other up week in and week out, and they feel a sense of pride in what they’re doing because they train so hard across the whole pre-season.
“Whereas here, this is just whether you can get yourself up for a game that is representing your league.”
Read highlighted representative opportunities as a launching pad for players to gain higher honours.
“If they can impress in this environment, well, I think they can play in most environments.”
Former Mulrooney Medallist James Bennett will captain the Canberra side, with Read labelling the Belconnen Magpies star “an obvious choice”.
“He’s played NEAFL up until this year with the Belconnen Football Club, and played in South Australia for North Adelaide. He’s probably the best player in the competition other than Kade Klemke from Queanbeyan who made himself unavailable.”
In a rare occurrence, two sets of brothers will turn out in AFL Canberra colours in one game. Bennett will be partnered by older brother Lexie, with club teammates Jacob and Isaac Taylor joining them.
The Bennett’s are certainly on the radar of the Sydney side, according to AFL Sydney Football Operations Manager Matt Graham.
“With the changes to the NEAFL structure and looking at the side picked by Canberra, we’re expecting a very tight match.
“The Bennett brothers are two keys that we’re aware of.”
Canberra skipper James Bennett will face up to Sydney’s Matthew Carey for the coin toss, with the Pennant Hills star getting the nod as the home side’s captain.
Graham imagines that the visitors will be well aware of Carey, possessing a brilliant left foot and speed to burn.
“He has captained this team [AFL Sydney] previously. He was a Phelan Medal winner, which is our Premier Division League Best and Fairest, a number of years ago.
Read expects a big game from Tuggeranong’s Liam Greenwell, who will oppose one of Sydney’s best in Keiran Emery.
Read predicts that Greenwell’s Hawks teammates Chris Robinson and Dave Smith will have a big role to play in the midfield, as will Ainslie’s Matt Boak.
“He’s our tall ruckman, he’s going to have the ruck duties for most of the day and the level of fitness from doing a NEAFL pre-season will hopefully hold us in good stead,” said Read.
ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR YABBA