This week the U12 D5 team faced another epic challenge playing top of the ladder team, East Malvern, on a beautiful Sunday at our home ground Castlefield. The line-up for this week was slightly different from last week, owing to rotations of Louis, Billy, Jack C, Jacky G, Ben S to Div1 and players returning to Div5 Eddie L, Christian S and James Mc.
In the rooms before the game, the milestone of 50 games for Lucas C was acknowledged. The message to the team was to focus on the positive aspects of our game play from the previous week against a tough opposition. The team was asked to man up in defence and apply constant pressure with tackling, spoils and shepherding. The three phases the game were re-emphasised: 1. We have it, 2. They have it, 3. No one has it. It was pleasing to see the team now remembering all three phases and seeing them keen to put theory into practice.
Our runner Graeme did a wonderful job and motivated the team in a huddle. The energy was great. Ben Fox captain for this week led the team out the change room and onto the field. The team took the opportunity to take on kick-to-kick drills prior to the siren and quick briefing.
At the opening bounce, the opposition showed their intent by clearing the ball easily out of the centre, resulting in several easy goals, and putting Rovers under a lot of pressure on the scoreboard. The backline was under attack, with James Mc, Christian B and Oscar applying many tackles. Alex P, in the ruck, cleared the ball out of the centre and created an opportunity in our forward line, however the opposition talls quickly repelled the ball back. Towards the end of the first quarter the other defenders Will, Ben and Chevi started to make their presence known and laid some quality tackles. Unfortunately the opposition clearances into their tall forwards resulted in many goals in their favour. It wasn’t start Rovers were hoping for.
The instructions at first break was to address the centre clearances. Immediately at the bounce there was a huge uplift in intensity and effort from Christian S. With support from Jace and Brodie in the centre, Christian S presented the ball to the forwards for a scoring opportunity. The team had lifted and the signs were promising. The opposition also responded with more offensive pressure, however Oli and Oscar kept the backline strong with more impressive tackles. With another clearance in the centre, Christian B kicked into space as instructed, and combined with Jake and Max to kick our first GOAL. The team lifted and spirits were high.
Brodie and Josh E gained confidence and were starting to clear the ball out of centre and were making a positive impact on the rest of the team with their courage. Chevi continued to take strong marks in defence and Ben D displayed exemplary pressure with a smother that resulted in a turnover into open space. Towards the far side on the wing James took a heavy tackle that resulted in a game ending injury. The team responded and played with more courage. Another clearance from Brodie to Max in forward line and pass to Christian S resulted in a second GOAL for the Rovers.
At the half time break the team was praised for a great turnaround after a slow start. With James out and a single player on the interchange the coaching staff were scrambling to make some changes to give the on-ballers a rest without breaking up the strong defensive structure that was in place.
It was expected that the opposition would come back hard in the third quarter and as expected loaded their forward line with a few more talls. We did well to slow the flow of goals in the third quarter and remain competitive. Oli and Oscar continued to take marks and tackle hard, Chevi and Christian B cleared the ball into space with good smart choices. Will and Ben F continued to defend and displayed tremendous courage against the talls.
At the last break the Rovers were asked to dig deep. Ben D was vocal and asked his team mates to play well for their mums on Mother’s Day.
In the last quarter Max had a run in the back line against the talls and Chevi positioned in the centre. Max, Oli, Ben Fox and Oscar worked well as a unit in defence. Max stood up to the challenge and took a couple of great marks in defence. Mid way through the quarter, Josh E cleared the ball into open space in the forward line and the chase was on. Lucas.C eyes lit up and ran his heart out with defenders chasing him down, but composed under pressure kicked Rovers third GOAL for the game.
In summary, it was a comfortable win for East Malvern. For two weeks in a row the Rovers have played against the top two sides with greater height advantage and physical strength. However, the Rovers DIV5 team showed tremendous courage, effort and attitude. It was pleasing to see the strong response after the first quarter and ongoing intensity for the rest of the game.
David Ballarin (Assistance Coach)
Graeme Davis (Runner)