Berwick’s Hurst putting name up in lights

Berwick boy Kane Hurst has played himself into Vic Country contention. 408771 Picture: ROB LAWSON/AFL PHOTOS.

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Berwick defender Kane Hurst is capturing attention after a strong month of footy in the talent pathway system.

Hurst trialled for Vic Country against the Young Guns and played an effective shutdown role and has since carried that form into the Coates League for Dandenong.

Across the last fortnight, he has been matched up on Allies pair Lenny Douglas (Tasmania) and Fergus McFadyen (Brisbane Academy) and won both battles.

“He’s competitive and he’s done the job on some really good players – in the second half (against Brisbane) he shut down McFadyen who had four in the first (half) and Kane was still effective offensively,” Stingrays coach Nick Cox said.

“His last two weeks have been excellent against strong opposition, particularly with the way balls are coming in and last week (against Tassie) he was probably one of our better players on the ground with his aerial, positioning and ability to run and carry and make sound decisions.”

Another endearing aspect to his game has been his intercepting, with his ability to read the cues of the kicker and back himself overhead and at ground level catching eyes.

The form has come after a tough matchup against Gippsland’s Asher Eastham in round two when he was beaten aerially multiple times as the Power forward took six marks and kicked 3.1.

“We were a bit disappointed with the way he played and after that we had a chat about a few things and he’s reacted really nicely to feedback on how to get better,” Cox said.

“I think he has been sensational since.”

“His positioning needed to be better and clearly has been since then – he’s cutting off angles better and being stronger in contests and not allowing forwards to get in front of him with ease.

“He’s starting to gain some real momentum.

“He has a good balance of pace and his aerial and groundwork stuff are the things that set him apart from a lot of other defenders: he’s sound at both.”

That skillset gives him the ability to play on different types of opponents, able to match smaller players with his pace and strong enough to halve aerial contests when giving up size.

The next step for Hurst is to add offensive flair and continue to develop his kicking, but he has shown clear improvement from 2023 when he played six games as a bottom-ager.

Hurst had a strong preseason, which included extra boxing sessions with Stingrays development coach Craig Lineham, unlocking his best footy.

“He’s a bit sounder in the contest now and he’s confident at the level and knows he can play at the level and now he needs to take the next step and be a standout most weeks with what he’s doing,” Cox added.

Projecting as a third tall defender at senior footy, he’ll hope to be named in the Vic Country squad which is set to be named prior to the Rays’ next game against GWV on Saturday 1 June.

Stingrays co-captains Harvey Langford and Cooper Hynes are locks for the squad, alongside injured Narre North tall Noah Mraz.

Charlie Orchard is another Stingray to piece together a strong fortnight of form in the backline, defending strongly and improving his offensive output, while 19-year-old North VFL-listed Ben Hopkins has been solid ahead of the midseason draft next Wednesday 29 May.