WHILE Paul Long is now one of the most talented players in the Central West AFL’s senior competition, he can still recall the time when he first got the chance to test himself against older, more experienced rivals.
That is part of the reason why this Saturday’s local derby between his Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws and the Bathurst Giants has him excited.
After making the 2016 grand final, the Outlaws outfit has made a strong start to 2017 with the only blemish a loss in a tight contest with clubmates Rebels.
The Giants have also impressed over the three rounds of competition played thus far. An injection of youth as well as some new, experienced faces has seen the Bathurst side beat Young and prove more than competitive against both Dubbo and Orange.
The form of those younger players has made others in the league, such as Long, take note of the Giants.
“They’ve got young guys like Aiden Macauley, Luke Macauley, the Broes boys, all those guys that played in the junior age groups and now to play against them in senior footy will be very interesting,” Long said.
“It’s good to see those guys still playing around here and giving their all. To see guys like that not throwing it away for something else is great and they are talented kids too.
“That looks to be their strength, the running game of their young kids. Aiden Macauley, he kicked five goals in a match the other week, which is a good effort. I can remember when I was still young like them too and is great to see them succeeding at a senior level.”
As well as the prospect of facing the younger Giants making Long eagerly anticipate Saturday’s derby, so too does taking on former Bushrangers team-mates.
Paul Jenkins has linked with Giants this season, while Long has also played alongside the likes of defender Dave Hitchick and ruckman James Kennedy.
“There’s always that rivalry of us versus them as there is in any other derby in any other sport, it’s the same when the Outlaws play the Rebels,” Long said.
“We are going to be playing against guys we’ve trained with and played with and it’s good when you get a chance to prove yourself against them in that competitive environment.
“There will definitely be some rivalry there and we’re looking forward to it, it should be a good hit out.
“They do look to have improved and it’s going to be a really good challenge and it’s good to see the game is growing strong in Bathurst with what looks to be three competitive sides in the one competition this year.”
Outlaws, who head into the match on the back of a 135-point win last Saturday, will start the derby as favourites. Opening bounce at George Park 1 is 2.30pm.