FOUR Echuca footballers have been named in the final squad of 48 to play at the V/Line Cup Carnival next month.
Jack Evans was named in the Rural Bank Bendigo Pioneers under-15 division one team to play in Gippsland during the AFL grand final week.
Joe Guiney, Mitch Wales and Riley Smith were also included in the division two team.
They were selected as part of 60 players from the regional selection trials in Mildura to trial at Bendigo last month.
Thirteen other players from the AFL Goulburn Murray Youth Development Academy under-15 program made the initial trial at Bendigo.
From there, the final squads were chosen by a coaching panel from the Pioneers and will go on to verse other TAC Cup region teams during the carnival on Monday, September 25, until Wednesday, September 27.
Five other AFL GM Academy players were selected into the squad, joining other regions including Sunraysia, Central Murray and Central Victoria.
They will undergo a training session before the carnival at Bendigo’s Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve on September 13.
AFL GM football development manager Trevor Mellington said it was a great endorsement for the academy program.
‘‘It highlights we’re on the right path in what we want to achieve with the academy program,’’ he said.
‘‘It provides these young players an opportunity to play footy at a higher level and becomes a starting point for the Pioneers under-16 program.
‘‘It’s only our second year of the academy, but we’ve already seen examples of players making it through the pathway.’’
Echuca footballer Brodie Kemp was the most recent example having been a part of the under-15 academy program last year.
He made it into the Pioneers V/Line Cup side in 2016 and was selected into the Pioneers under-16 program this year, also playing for Victoria country at the 2017 national carnival.
He made his TAC Cup debut as an under-16 player at the weekend and will no doubt be a part of the under-18 list in 2018.
Cameron Stewart and Luke Moodie coached the under 15 academy squad and Mellington said their involvement with the TAC Cup systems was invaluable to the young players.
‘‘They both have a lot of experience and have played a large role in developing players,’’ he said.
‘‘The football managers from each region gave feedback from what we’d seen of players over the extended period of time, but a lot of it came down to the final selection of Pioneers’ coaching staff.’’