U12s Elimination Final, Aug 24th

Since our first night together in early March, it has been my absolute honour and privilege to take charge of this year’s U12 group.  My hope was that these boys could be taught a very basic “Senior style” of football, with our tackling being a huge focus, and our ability to run forwards and backwards and to become a really skillful unit also high on the list of priorities. Fast forward 5 months, and with these boys showing massive improvement in all those areas, we found ourselves facing Monbulk in an Elimination Final at Gembrook (3rd vs 6th). Our record against all the other finalists was extremely competitive throughout the year, but the reality was that we hadn’t beaten any of those teams above us. In every one of those games, we had managed to put together 3 Qtrs but at one time or another drifted off for a Qtr and had been overrun. The challenge on the whiteboard today simply read – to bring together everything you had been taught this year, and sustain it for 4 Qtrs!

We kicked with a slight breeze in the 1st term, and right from Oak's first tap out we looked right on the money. Our Captain Teddy Box and Maxy Reid were prominent with early clearances, and with Lachey J continually at the bottom of packs, we locked the ball in our forward line for much of the Qtr. Jonty soccered through an early chance which was adjudicated as a point, and Lachey Boyd and Maxy T had chances to goal, but otherwise we just couldn’t hit the scoreboard and get reward for our effort. Our back 6 was just superb led by Pat Seymour, Harry, Ziggy H and Josh Sharp, and it was also through this term that we saw Dan Murray rise to the occasion with a number of great defensive efforts, and one ripper mark. We came in at Qtr time with only 3 behinds to Monbulks nil, and despite the huge defensive effort and only the 3 behinds scored, the belief in these boys was absolutely through the roof – the key – our tackling – big or small they absolutely nailed everything, so crucial in a big game like this.

The 2nd term began with Monbulk attacking hard with the breeze, and we defended so strongly for so many periods of the Qtr. Through this term it was the “Mosquito Fleet” who worked so hard – Franky, EY, Maxy T, Nath, Jed Noar and Brad Langridge. We had trouble getting the ball forward of centre for most of the term, and the forwards had very limited chances. What an absolutely huge thrill to see Ryan Jewell and Alex Gailis put some huge forward pressure on the Hawks defenders and lock the ball in, and then Ryan lay a huge tackle near the boundary line and win a Holding The Ball decision. Not satisfied with that, he then brought the ball inside to Max Reid who couldn’t quite make the distance and the ball was cleared. As a coach, you just love seeing kids go out and do things that they once thought were beyond them; these 2 illustrated right there that with the right intent, nothing is impossible, especially against far bigger opponents. Unfortunately we conceded a goal late in the term, when one of our Wingers was caught on the wrong side of the ground building the wall and it left the other side open. An unattended Hawk swooped and drove the ball to the square where a goal was kicked. It left us 7 points down but again our boys came in for a drink still really positive about what lay in front of them.

The 3rd term was make or break time as far as I was concerned. We had the breeze and we needed to score at least one goal to be any chance of being in this match. We continued to see Ruck dominance from Oakley and Josh Meadows, and Oakley’s work rate around the ground was really starting to hurt Monbulk. Aaron Hick was having yet another very consistent Qtr, and yet again our defence was having another ripper term led by Alex T, Alex BB (showing some brilliant composure under real pressure) and then Liam Lourey who rolled onto the Wing in a rotation and gave us some great drive. The intensity and desperation of the game began to really lift about halfway through the Qtr, and we saw some of the best defensive efforts by our team from this point onwards that never dropped away right up until the final siren. At the break we still were 7pts behind and the message was clear, take the game on, attack the corridor at all times and lets be as long and direct as possible. With the breeze to kick into, it was going to be a tough ask, but the mood of the group was so positive that you couldn’t ever write this team off for any reason – and boy that was an understatement!

The last Qtr had everything you could have hoped for from both teams, the tackling pressure remained, the marking from both teams was exceptional, and the running and carrying through the middle was spectacular to watch. We continually pushed the ball Inside 50 but couldn’t find that goal to light us up. Josh Sharp showed great skill to turn his opponent inside out and then ran into goal from a tight angle and just missed. Back to a 1 goal deficit and things were really hotting up. EY was coming into his own this Qtr along with Lachey J and Tyler Belloni was proving to be a real pain for Monbulk as he racked up touches on his wing and through the midfield. Jonty was crashing into packs and knocking opponents over left right and centre, and the incredible desperation by Alex Eames to lay 2 magnificent tackles when all seemed lost was just inspirational. Tobeh displayed a desperation today that I’ve not seen in him before, with one dive in front of an opponent to make a spoil that will live with me for a long time. It’s amazing how some players can rise to the occasion, with Lachey Boyd taking a great mark at HF, then playing on and “selling some candy” to one of the DRJFL’s best players. These boys were on fire, and then finally after all this time we got the reward we deserved, with our forwards again tackling their hearts out, and Josh Meadows getting a Holding The Ball decision right in front of goal and converting. There’s 4 minutes to go and she’s all locked up, and now we’re starting to ask “what happens if it’s a tie”?? For the next 2-3 minutes both teams went absolutely hammer and tongs at it, it was just so impressive to watch. Oak’s continued to run the opposing Ruckman into the ground and we were looking so very dangerous. We possibly had one more chance to score with a kick into about 25 mtrs out, but we couldn’t quite make the contest we needed and the ball got cleared to the wing. After a stoppage, Monbulk won the ball onto the flank where a long kick forward resulted in a point. This gave us 45 seconds to go from end to end, into a breeze, on the biggest ground in the competition. Pat Seymour actually sent that kick out to the 50 mtr line where we won the next possession into near the centre when the siren rang, the Young Bloods a heart breaking 1 point in arrears.

It’s pretty hard to find the right words when you see so many tears on so many faces. These boys have invested so much into this year, and into today and you could see that this loss hurt all of them. In a strange way, I was really pleased to see them respond like that because to me it showed that they all really cared, and that this meant so much to all of them. I thought today that as many as 5-6 of the boys played their best games of the year. In particular, there’s no doubt in my mind that Dan Murray, Tobeh Arrowsmith, Ryan Jewell, Maxy Thornton and Lachey Boyd all fitted that category, which is amazing considering it was under the pressure of a knockout final (and their 1st footy final ever). With the Senior boys providing so much drive and physicality across the day, we really saw just how important it is to maintain the effort for the whole game (which we did) and how important it is for every player to simply “play their role” which they all did superbly.

Definitely a tough way to end such an amazing year, to win 3 Qtrs out of 4 and yet lose the game in a way seems unfair. Credit to Monbulk for hanging in there during the last term, because we were so dominant at times that we could easily have kicked 2-3 goals and blown them away. They are a gritty and hard working side and good sides find a way to win even when they aren’t playing so well. To our boys, our support staff, our parents and all our supporters, thankyou so very much for all the time you’ve invested into this fantastic group of young men. They have answered every challenge, completed every task, and have been so easy to coach that I wish we could keep the same group for next year. You’ve all made this year such an enjoyable and positive year, and one that we will always be able to look back upon with great fondness.

Looking forward to seeing you all at Presentation Night on September 19th!

Regards & Go Young Bloods.