AFTER smashing form at NAB League and senior Goulburn Valley League level last season, Moama product Noah Wheeler certainly earned his position on the Northern Blues’ VFL list this season.
The Echuca-listed midfielder has forged a reputation as perhaps the Murray Bombers’ most vital piece, consistently starring whenever his footballing schedule allows him to take the field.
What Wheeler lacks in size, he makes up for in strength and sheer ability to extract the football from any situation, with his knack of kicking goals (16 in 13 GVL games) yet another bonus.
With competition for spots at VFL level hotter than ever, Wheeler made seven appearances for the Blues this season before returning to GVL level, where he has made his mark in recent weeks.
Wheeler said the weekly grind of VFL football was a challenge, but one he was up for.
‘‘It’s good, it’s hard, and selection is a challenge as well. I’m enjoying the challenge,’’ he said.
‘‘We train Monday, Wednesday — Monday is pretty cruisy coming off a game on Saturday or Sunday.
‘‘Wednesday night builds up a bit. It’s like a Thursday night session and goes for an hour and a half.
‘‘Friday night — if you have a Saturday game — is just a light captain’s run, just half an hour to tick the legs over and go over the game plan, then you’re into the game.’’
Initially picked as the side’s 23rd man, which a player can be four times, Wheeler eventually broke into the team on a permanent basis, averaging 13 disposals, three marks and two tackles as well as kicking five goals for the season.
He said VFL football had demanded he add more strings to his bow.
‘‘I played three games as the 23rd man and, then for my fourth, I was meant to play in the Young Guns series and Cam Polson, one of the AFL-listed boys, had gastro. I came into the VFL side in my own right, not as the 23rd,’’ Wheeler said.
‘‘I’m learning a few new roles in the VFL, because at that level I’m not as big as everyone else.
‘‘I’m playing high half-forward or winger, and get thrown on-ball some times. I’ve just got to figure out how to hold my outside balance, when to go and when not to go.’’
A Moama boy, Wheeler played 28 senior games with the Magpies before shifting to Victoria Park last season, a move designed to test himself at the higher level.
‘‘It was about testing myself with the better footy,’’ he said.
‘‘Obviously I was at TAC Cup last year as a top-age player and when I came back from TAC Cup games I wanted to play the best footy I could.
‘‘It’s still close to home, living in Echuca, and probably the best footy around.
‘‘Ever since I moved I’ve made some really good mates here.
‘‘We surprised everyone last year, I reckon, with how well we ended up, and this year sitting second is pretty nice.’’