ARARAT - After a long summer of intense training and being pushed to the limit three Ararat Rats' footballers have been rewarded with inclusion in the North Ballarat Rebels preliminary squad.
Jake Robinson, Xave Vearing and Ignatius Stewart were among the 46 top age players announced last week.
Rebels' regional manager Phil Partington said all three Ararat players showed they were willing to put in the hard work and dedication expected at the club.
Partington said Stewart, who played just two matches with Ararat in 2012, particularly impressed during his first tryout with the Rebels.
"Ignatius goes to St Patrick's College where our head coach David Loader works and obviously we knew he was a tall boy, he's about 200 centimetres," he said.
"He has good athletic ability through his basketball, so he was invited down to training and he showed good football skills."
Robinson played 10 games with the Rebels in 2012 and Partington said the 175cm midfielder/forward will be hoping to take his solid pre-season form into round one.
"Everyone was super impressed with Jake as a bottom age player last year and how he carried himself on the field," he said.
"As a top age player the work ethic and leadership he has already shown has been great. We are all hoping this boy can have a great year of football."
Vearing, who was in the Rebels' under-16 development squad in 2012 and debuted for the team in round 15 against the Dandenong Stingrays has used that experience as motivation over the summer.
"Xave was in the under-16 development squad last year and got the opportunity to play in the team as the 23rd man (a rule which extends a team's bench to five players and gives junior footballers a chance to experience the under-18 competition), so he has already had a taste of TAC Cup football," Partington said.
"This year is his first full opportunity and his work ethic over the pre-season has also impressed. He is always asking questions and wanting to improve his game."
Stawell Warriors footballer Kyle Hendy is also included in the Rebels' squad as an overage player.
The Rebels completed a three-day camp last weekend at Pax Hill which included a trip to Melbourne for AFL Victoria fitness screening and education programs.
The team will have its final practice match hitout this weekend against the Geelong Falcons, before the season gets underway on March 30 against the Bendigo Pioneers.