A chilly day was encountered at the depths of Port Melbourne, nothing that a bacon and egg roll and a latte from the canteen wouldn’t fix. Our team arrived 45 mins early to be ready for warm up drills and a talk to which was perfect but we were down 1 person – the coach !!! Aghhh… 10 minutes later in rolls Frenchy the coach. ‘Sorry I’m late but the parking is terrible.’ Maybe he should get an Uber next time !!!
Mr Wells was unable to coach this week so it was left to Frenchy to take control of the troops. He had a plan all worked out and gave the boys an opening address where he asked for commitment, dedication, run, and not to kick the ball off the ground. A certain gentleman who shall remain nameless had a look at the line up board and said to me “Where’s Damien Paino?” “Full forward” I said, “but he is lazy”. He agreed. I then said that he won’t be lazy when I move him to the centre. He disagreed. He was sooooo wrong (more later). No one will ever know the spirit of these kids unless they are put in positions that will test them.
Little Frenchy was captain (birthday boy) and he went out for the toss, we lost the toss and were kicking against the breeze or how Mike Larkin would describe it, a howling wind. The opening quarter was a tight tussle with Ben Ackinci thrown in the ruck, a role that he has never done and was very nervous about. We had our half backs designated to be our sweepers and full back, being Noah Hunt, kicking to set plays. The pressure was on from the opening minute and we had Mitch in the centre roving beautifully to Ben, Luca looking like he hadn’t been to bed running on one cylinder, Kenno commanding the back flank role and Ed looking like he went to the same party as Luca last night!!! The first quarter we held up well and scored a couple of points compared to their goal, our endeavour was great and commitment looked like it was going to be a great game.
The address at quarter time was for us to kick long, create space, pick up our men and fight for what was ours. The second quarter got off to a wobbly start as Port had all the play against the wind. Our boys fought hard with Harry H, Sam H, and Hugh H having good quarters. Kenno repelled many attacks with the help of Adam D and James H. Mitch got felled at the end of the second quarter by an ala Jimmy Jess off the ball high hip and shoulder bump. He took it as well as he could and played on but the over exuberant pimply faced upstart that did this now had a target on his back. If he played footy as well as he mouthed off then he would be Brownlow favourite!!! We lost the second quarter and went into half time a little flat.
The coaches were frantically changing the board around and Ed got a pep talk, he was then thrown into the ruck, Paino into the back line, Mitch into the forward line and Noah onto the ball. Two big men into the centre, and a free reign to kick the ball off the ground. The weather changed and the rain came down sideways. Eli was everywhere, Mitch scored a couple of goals including one great snap around the corner, Tex had a great goal assist for Mitch, Lazy Paino wasn’t so lazy anymore with some great work up back, Ed stepping up to make his mother proud even though she wasn’t there, Hugh Harris laying some great rugby tackles (even though the AFL has actually taught the Rugby boys how to tackle), Tommy Randal must have been near the ball a lot because Kelly just didn’t shut up, same goes for little Frenchy because his dad was doing the same!!!! and while I’m on that subject, I think the ball must have been near Noah alot too!!! Some beautiful coaches assistants on the other side of the fence helped the step in coaches with a couple of tips, but in all of this the third quarter was wet (felt like I had a bucket of water tipped over my head) and our boys tried their guts out. A lot of kicking off the ground which was strongly discouraged by all on the sidelines but I think there must have been a spell on the kids that didn’t allow them to bend their knees!!!
The final quarter had arrived. The kids got a pep talk and told that we needed to lift, and the boys did. Tommy Randall was great in defence pumping the ball long, Harry H was strong, Harry G staying tight with his opposition, Sam P creating space in the centre, Eli and Kenno everywhere, Adam D keeping to his word and running harder, Fraser put back on the field and straight into the action, Noah put down back again after running two great quarters in the guts. The quarter came to close with an on the siren running goal from Kenno. We lost by one goal.
It is amazing to see the boys responding to a third quarter address and lift like they did. We need endeavour like that for a full game next week. This game typifies what kids can do when taken out of their comfort zones. Hugh Harris, a rugby man prior to this season has adapted to our game beautifully and had a great game. We need to have faith in all of our kids but special mentions to Damo, Ben and Ed for stepping up and proving what they can do.
Special mentions to Kenno and Eli for a fantastic game.