EIGHT of the region's best junior footballers are set to make their mark in the Northern Heat's clash with a Gold Coast representative team.
Gunnedah's Hayden Baker, Tom Maher and Jasper Thomas will be among the squad made up of players from the North West and North Coast, to take the field on Saturday.
The side last trained together in Byron Bay in February, a session which included a brief trial game against the Burleigh Bombers.
AFL North West community football manager Paul Taylor told the Namoi Valley Independent he expected big things from the side.
"Honestly, every guy in the squad has improved dramatically since we began training last year," Taylor said.
"As well as developing their skills, the guys have been involved in a variety of beneficial fitness and strength-building programs.
"Those sorts of things really give them something to build upon and take with them throughout their footy careers."
Originally slated to be held on the Gold Coast, both sides agreed to a neutral venue to help ease the burden of travel.
"Travel is probably one of the biggest challenges facing representative teams in our area," Taylor said.
"These kids come from far and wide to attend the training sessions.
"All told I think some of them have travelled a total of 2000 kilometres to attend training.
"Impressively though, they all make the commitment and haven't really missed a session so far.
"It's a massive effort and I want to congratulate all the players and their families for making the effort."
Taylor said while each of the players had "improved dramatically" Gunnedah's Jasper Thomas would be a player to watch.
"Like all of the boys Jasper has come a long way," he said.
"With his athletics background he is a very exciting player to watch and given he has only one year's experience it's quite exciting.
"I'm sure he will enjoy his footy and be really keen to do his job for the side."
The players are expected to line up in their preferred positions during the game while also taking the time to learn new positions.
"I'd say all of the boys will get an opportunity to play where they are comfortable," Taylor said.
"But the beauty of representative teams like this is that you have a lot of really talented, versatile players.
"So I think there will also be some times where the guys will be playing somewhere new on the field."
After returning from Saturday's game, all of the North West players will turn their attention to the upcoming home and away season, which begins on April 27.