TURVEY PARK youngster Rhys Leary continues to press his claims to make his senior debut in round one this year after another impressive pre-season showing in Saturday's trial clash with North Wagga at Maher Oval.
Bulldogs coach Michael Mazzocchi was most pleased with the dramatic improvement in how their new-look forward set up functioned in their final hit-out before the season proper.
Leary, 18, has been part of their under-17 system for a couple of years, but gave his round one selection hopes another boost with a strong showing around half forward.
The small forward is a strong tackler and applies strong defensive pressure on defenders, something Turvey Park lacked at times last year.
The Bulldogs were ahead by around eight goals when the senior regulars were on the park for the first three periods of the six period encounter.
Key forward recuits Andrew Emery and Corey Baxter, along with Tyler Cunningham and Baxter Wallett, improved their synergy vastly on last week's effort against Charles Sturt University.
But it was Leary who keeps banging down the door after a huge summer on the track.
"He's very quick and tough for his age, he doesn't mind tackling and getting amongst it," Mazzocchi said.
"He hits up and leads pretty well, and has good running patterns.
"He's had a great pre season, I think he's only missed one session, and in his two practice matches he's played his role exceptionally well.
"I'll expect he'll really press to make his debut in round one, definitely. He was very close last year at times, but his whole pre season has been excellent where he's trained really hard and you can see his improvement.
"He's improved out of sight. He'll definitely get a reward for his work."
Mazzocchi said the functioning of the forward line was the biggest positive to take from the clash.
"Our forward line seemed to work a whole lot better this week for some reason. Last week I wasn't exactly concerned but it didn't work that great, apart from Corey Baxter who kicked six," he said.
"That was the most pleasing thing for me, the improvement in our forward structure. The same names were in there who played CSU, but it functioned so much better.
"There was a lot of clean ball coming into them and they were able to work well together. There was a more even spread of goals."
Mazzocchi also singled out Ethan Weidemann and Will O'Connor as standouts for the Bulldogs in the midfield.
"It was quite hot and you could tell the players were really struggling, but building that fitness base will hold them in good stead for when the serious stuff starts next month."
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