THE Tassie Mariners will begin the defence of their division 2 national under-18 football title with a TAC Cup match against Dandenong in Melbourne tomorrow week.
The Mariners trained at Aurora Stadium on Wednesday under coach Adam Sanders with nine Northern players in the squad - North Launceston's Dakota Bannister, Jay Lockhart, Logan Reynolds, Bryton Mullins, Lochlan Young, Jake Sushames, Launceston's Brayden Pitcher and Zac Oldenhof and Western Storm's Tim Jones.
The Mariners will play two TAC Cup matches against Dandenong and Northern Knights before the national carnival gets under way against Queensland in Sydney, on Saturday, June 21.
``The squad is a little bit different to last year which ended up being a great group,'' Sanders said.
``There is certainly not as much height in this group so we are going to have to rely on a bit more of thinking outside the square as far as our forward structures and we're a bit smaller down back as well.
``But we seem to have a pretty good depth in the midfield which hopefully will be our strength and we can build around that.''
Western Storm's Tim Jones will captain the Mariners with Burnie's Caleb Hislop and Lauderdale's Josh McGuiness his deputies.
Sanders said it was difficult to predict the state's AFL draft chances this year after seven were picked up last year in a bumper crop.
``Caleb Hislop has been playing some very good footy with Burnie and didn't play Mariners last season due to a shoulder operation but has played well at national under-16 level so he is one who could put his best foot forward.
``A couple of the boys have really good attributes such as Devonport's Brayden Butler, Josh McGuiness or Clarence's Josh Fox, with the latter two over-age players from last year.
``Tim Jones is a really hard-working player who can hopefully catch the eye, so it depends on how they perform in these TAC Cup games and national championships and in TSL senior footy.''
Sanders expected New South Wales to provide strong opposition in the national championships with some AIS players in its side.
``Queensland probably haven't performed as well in the past couple of years but Adrian Fletcher is now their coach and Northern Territory are always a bit of an unknown.''
The Mariners play two more TAC Cup matches after the championships.