*** ROUND 8 – Harder You Work, Luckier You Get ***
After the mid-season break, the boys turned up to Castlefield for their Round 8 clash with Brighton Beach full of energy and bursting to get out there. The focus at training last week was linking up with handball and looking for the ‘first option’ by hand. We had two separate but simultaneous games of 5 on 5 keepings off handball in a close proximity to make the boys think about what to do with the ball when they get it. The emphasis on running to help and support their team mate, trying to find space by continuously moving, calling for the ball and using the ‘first option’ that presents itself rather than holding onto the ball and getting into trouble. And I was so impressed to see some fantastic examples of this during the game by the boys.
With our rotations and planning done prior, the Brighton Beach team tested our ‘Plan B’ around 5 minutes before the game by declaring they had 17 boys and ‘would we like to play with 17 or give them a player’. We had not been in this situation so far this year and I was so proud to see the way our boys handled this situation. I offered up Joshua as our first player (and rotated a player each quarter) along with Kit in the second, Angus in the third and Ashton in the final quarter and I was thrilled to see the maturity they all showed in going across and playing with the opposition for the quarter in the right spirit. All four boys got plenty of the ball as well which was terrific.
The start of the game was piping hot; like a hot potato with the ball sizzling back and forth up and down the ground. Brighton Beach started to win clearances from the centre with Joshy on the end of a few for the opposition. Our defence was tested from the outset with the ever reliable jumping Jack repelling opposition attacks and Louis on the lookout for players to tackle. Were we switched on? Ethan marshalled the troops and ran the ball forward, looking to pass to his team mates advantage just like we’d practiced. It caught on, this team work business, because pretty soon Archie got his hands on the ball through the middle and delivered by hand, Harry got under the pack and had the composure to handball out to our runners and Freddie showed tenacity out of the middle. But Brighton Beach were not to be outdone slotting through two quick goals before quarter time to take the ascendancy into the break.
Was it Winston Churchill who said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”? Who can be sure. Fact is, it’s true. With a positive and relentless attitude our boys kept chipping away in the second quarter. Lucas and Cooper gave us great run and power from the wings, Angus bustled his way through the middle working feverishly to get it forward. You could smell the tenacity from the sidelines as we created scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity but to no avail. Harry, Caelan K-F and Jackson B hit the scoreboard in quick succession but luck was not on our side each time registering minor scores. “At first you don’t succeed try, try again” (credit Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland for that one) was the order of the day because from a sprinkle a waterfall grows. Late in the quarter the deadlock was broken as Harry pulled a rabbit out of a hat and drilled a beauty through heavy traffic to set the scene for a nail biting second half.
The half time break enabled a moment of reflection and a reminder that persistence pays off. We, I believe, had arrested the momentum from the opposition but simply couldn’t capitalise given all our chances. The message was clear; ‘keep knocking on the door and soon enough you will burst through it’. Sebastian continued his good form running away from opposition and delivering by foot, Harry running toward his direct opposition (manning up in defence) and Kai a cross between the artful dodger and Forest Gump navigating his way through impossible congestion! Joshy and Eddie found plenty of the ball in the third from the midfield giving the forwards good supply and Charlie got this hands on it and showed courage inside the pack. Caelan M had worked hard all day and given great drive from each of the zones he played in. Pushing and willing it forward, our boys never gave up. Trying to edge ahead of a gallant Brighton Beach under pressure. In perhaps the play of the day, the ball was worked up alongside the Ludstone Street wing from half back, with link up handballs and purposeful delivery. We played on and used our first options and ran for each other. Did I hear the collective guttural screech of desperation come from our midfield as the stampede made its way across the oval past the coaches box? Who can tell? Hard running; hardball gets; AOE’s (Acts of Enthusiasm!); we had it all. The ball flowed through the zones to half forward where a deliberate pass into space allowed the galloping Sebastian at full stretch to run onto the ball at the top of the goal square and drill one from point blank. Rovers on fire. But we weren’t done. The ball was cleared from the middle again with seconds to spare, this time Ashton making his lofty presence felt. Charlie, Jackson N and Kai all combining to clear the middle and give our forwards another opportunity. All of a sudden like the front carriage of the mad mouse roller coaster, Kit bamboozled the opposition with twenty different direction changes in two seconds flat, to somehow weave his way out of trouble and dob the first goal of his young footy career – a ripper it was too! Siren sounds. Rovers in control and with their tails up.
Three quarter time break and the message was ‘more of the same’. Straight back out there, ready to go, our boys were now very much switched on. Archie, with clean hands, swoops onto the ball to collect it on the move, passes it to Angus who works with Jackson B to clear the area. Joshy takes possession finding his way through space and unselfishly handballs to Caelan K-F. And with the precision of a surgeon, Caelan threads it straight through the big sticks for his first goal of the year and a beauty! Celebrations ensue! Steady as a rock! Back to the centre and this time Lucas muscles his way forward with the ball and drives it long. Jackson N with a bit of icing on the cake takes a solid mark and has a shot – just misses. Brighton Beach kick it out and somehow it ends up back in Jackson N’s hands and this time he makes no mistake – goal. The ball went forward for the opposition out of the middle but Louis and Cooper made sure they had it covered. Through Jack, Caelan M and Sebastian the ball was rebound back out of the danger zone. Ethan, with clean hands and terrific run and carry all day, got it forward with a penetrating kick. With a gaggle of players on the ground it was hard to see how it happened but out of nowhere the ball ended up sailing through the big sticks (actually little ones up that end) and the celebration of Kai had made it clear (see pic of the day attached!) who had put that one through. And like magic, within 1 minute of the ball being bounced again, the ball was back in our forward line and the little magician Kai was at it again. ‘He caught fire, he was as hot as a pistol’ scoring two in two minutes. An amazing individual effort and just reward for working hard and persisting.
‘The harder you work, the luckier you get’.
Am really very proud. Who knows, some of the messages on Thursday just might be making their way into their trick bag – congratulations to all players for a wonderful game.
Just a shout out to Cruzy who was not feeling the best but who came down to support his team mates on Sunday. We missed you in the game buddy and hope you are feeling better.
See you all Thursday at training.
Link above to the photos from the game – Andrew Fix takes these photos and they are fantastic. A really special thank you to Andrew to going to the effort here. I am sure you’ll agree. I have attached two of my favourites capturing Kai’s celebrations after kicking his 2 goals. Doesn’t this capture the feeling?! To be 8 again – pretty cool shot!!
Hoping Kelly and I will see as many of you at the Rovers Casino Royale night this Saturday – should be a great night.
Rovers awards, in no order, for the day were as follows:
Congratulations to those boys.