It has been a hot and cold start to the season. Cold against Mordi Brae back in round 2, followed by hot performances against Bentleigh and East Sandringham. What would it be today?
Following the lead of the AFL, Hampton Rovers Juniors recognised the Sir Doug Nicholls Round aka the Indigenous Round by having a boy from each team read a short passage about Sir Doug Nicholls and Michael Long. As Charlie S read the passage, the rest of the team listened intently and respectfully. Good signs – signs of concentration.
The signs of concentration continued as Steve gave the final messages to a new look Rovers U10 Blue. Scout camps, family holidays and injuries meant calling up a number of excited (and nervous) U9 Blue players – Seb B, Tim, Jason, Daniel and Jack. Even the coaching box looked different with Rod wearing the Green Assistant Coach bib.
Immediately after the centre bounce, East Malvern moved the ball quickly and skilfully into the forward zone. It was clear the back six of Seb L, Cooper E, Dan, Charlie S, Eddie and Kai would be seeing plenty of the ball. Excellent defensive efforts by all the back six prevented East Malvern getting away on the scoreboard. Indeed as the quarter progressed, Rovers started to put East Malvern’s backs under pressure through quick and fluid ball movement. An excellent of passage of play by Jackson N and Dylan in the mids saw the ball move cleanly forward and onto the chest of Cruz on the “50m” arc. They say left-footers make the game look easy, and Cruz certainly fits that mould. As the ball sailed through the centre of the goal posts, post high, it looked very Buddy-like.
The second quarter followed the same pattern as the first. East Malvern’s mids had the Rovers mids Ashton, Caelan, Dylan, Seb B, Kit and Jackson N doing plenty of chasing. Again, East Malvern were unable to translate their forward entries into points on the scoreboard, due to fantastic defensive efforts. Of the back six, Seb L was a particular stand out. After Jason, one of the U9 recruits, scored from a strong mark – Rovers went into the half time break only a goal down.
In the team huddle Ethan helped the Steve and Rod with the arm-band rotations. After a relatively quiet first two quarters in the forward zone, Jackson B, Josh, Hugo, Cruz, and Will B were asked to take over defensive duties. The mids moved forward, and the defensive group of the first half moved into the middle.
The second half saw East Malvern out-run the Hampton boys in all zones. They moved the ball quickly and with intent. That said, the Hampton boys had their opportunities in front of goal. Jackson N hit the upright twice, and Caelan missed to the right with his set shot. (Guess what will be the focus at this week’s skills session.)
An incident in the final quarter tarnished a strong East Malvern performance, but also highlighted the character of our team. No-one retaliated, as a group they rallied around their teammate, and they showed respect to their opposition at handshakes. While the result didn’t go their way, the Rovers boys should be immensely proud with how they handled themselves.
So was it a hot or cold performance? In fairness it was probably somewhere in between. The Rovers boys demonstrated plenty of concentration and determination in the first half but were unable to maintain that intensity for four quarters.
Awards this week for Cooper E, Hugo and Will B, with special recognition to Seb L for epitomising the spirit of sportsmanship during the game. And a special shoutout to U9 Blue for helping us field a team!