The signs were not good. Coach Hotton left for China mid week on what was initially a work trip – but upon hearing he was in Shanghai, the Gold Coast Suns quickly placed him on their extended bench due to many of their current players going down with asthma. I was half expecting to see him in the Suns kit when I tuned in Sunday afternoon but an improvement in air quality meant that his AFL comeback after 10+ years would have to go on hold (at least for now).
Then stand-in coach Steve Marshall’s plan of Ollie Horrigan at Centre Half Forward collapsed almost as quickly as it was formulated as, while running the 10m from the change rooms to the ground at the start of the game he slipped and split his knee open to the bone. 5 mins later he was off to hospital and we all wish him the best for a quick recovery.
Finally – the team manager’s manager – Michael Kennedy, the man who supposedly keeps the entire U13 ship pointing in the right direction was absent – phoning in instructions from Far North Queensland.
But none of these events seemed to faze the boys who started the game ready to play. The first quarter was a real see-saw contest. About half way through a great pass from Zach B saw Zac Z goal off one step from 40m out. St Paul’s quick reply had the quarter time score 9-8 to them.
The second quarter was another close one where Alex Smyth created the passage of the game with another of his now trade mark chase downs when the opposition was about to goal. We quickly rebounded and after traveling the length of the field through only Rovers hands – Henry Hamilton finished it with great mark and goal. Shortly after James Hope found himself all alone at centre half forward and offloaded to Fynnie who nailed a goal on the run. Luke NS took a goal saving mark on the line and we went into half time leading 20-15.
We had plenty of it in the 3rd quarter. Dan, Jules and Zach B were in everything but the reality was everyone was applying pressure and doing the hard things. Dan goaled after some great work in the air by Henry. We had a few more shots but they were just wide. Unfortunately they got a few too many forward entries with 2 ending up as goals, leaving us 28-27 down at 3 quarter time.
The last quarter was back and forth from the half back lines with no side able to penetrate. Zac Z took a great pack mark at centre half back, Sam Marshall was repelling numerous attacks and it was tight. Then suddenly, with 3 mins left a few kicks forward ended up with Henry who turned on a dime and slotted his second goal. The last few minutes saw a lot of screaming from parents. (Richard Bowen obviously thought he was watching Richmond and was expecting a last minute fade out – forgetting that the Rovers U13s were actually trained in how to defend a close game). The boys remained relatively calm and kept the ball on the members wing. With 20 seconds to go St Paul’s got a quick kick to centre half forward where most of the Rovers team jumped on the ball and forced a bounce as the siren sounded. Final scores 33-30 – a great Rovers win, reminiscent of the sort of pressure the team brought to last years final series. BoG Alex Smyth with Zac Ziesing and Dan also picking up well deserved awards.