You wake up different on the morning of a final. The senses are heightened. Is it going to rain? Is the wind howling? Did the boys get enough sleep?
Thankfully, we didn’t have much time to think about it. 8.15am arrival for a 9am start. The conditions were brilliant. Good opportunity for a proper warm up. The boys were straight out of bed. Pumped.
My first finals address to the boys was about to begin. The planning was done. It was all about voice and motivation now. Why not us? We had Jason Cripps speak to the boys on Wednesday night. This is where the focus began. He gave a wonderful motto that I reiterated to the boys. 100% effort for 100% of the game time, from 100% of the playing group. Do this – we win the game! The boys were the most engaged they had been all year. Pumped.
It was time for action. The intensity was brilliant from the 1st bounce. We dominated possession and our structure was out coaching the opposition. Chris L has done an amazing job with strategy education all year and the boys respond and take instruction well. The development in this teaching has been very pleasing.
James H and Wes S were tasked with using their pace over the back. They were part of all our scoring shots in the first term. Ground was small and ball was going to carry. We scored 5 points, but it felt different to our poor kicking in our last meeting. It was dominant and these boys were critical. Charlton T was creating opportunities and he was close on few occasions to score majors. Keegan M was using his frame and presence to clunk a few big grabs.
We kicked another 2 points in the second quarter and it was starting to look like we weren’t going to be able to buy a goal. I would’ve been happy to cough up for one and in a hurry. Mikey P had to get busy in the 2nd. His poise coming out of defence was needed. Ollie S continued his great impact in games and was pivotal in ensuring the Vampires didn’t get too many chances. He and Sandro M were dominant across half back. Harry BG was fighting hard in defence and was his attacking self leading forwards to the ball and not giving them an inch. Ryan P was making good decisions and was linking up well between back and forward. Freddie S and Matty B also provided some great assistance on the wing and across half back. They’ve been generals there all year. The message was clear at half time. Continue the pressure and the scoreboard would eventually start working for us. Scores level.
I wondered after our 8th behind whether we could win a final by not kicking a goal. Then it happened. Keegan M, set shot and bang we were away. Huddy J had been dominating in the middle and around the ground. He evaded and spun out of trouble to kick our 2nd. We were off and running now. East Brighton didn’t score in the first quarter and now hadn’t scored for the third quarter. Mitch R was launching bombs in the smaller ground and landing them in our forward line. Jake S was playing his best game for the year. His marking and kicking to position was a highlight of the game. Oscar M then decided he’d try and kick goal of the year. Guess what? He nailed it from the boundary. Surely it was our day. Pumped.
It wasn’t over, but gee whiz it was looking like being close to over. Our concentration for the contest had not wavered all day. I asked the boys for 15 more minutes and we’d be off to the big dance. The little dominator, Benny H, gave us the perfect start. He banged through a ripping goal and he was as pumped as I’ve seen him. Boys could smell victory. Harry B couldn’t give anymore. He was huge in the tight spaces. Nothing was going to stop us now. Max L was working up to half back and making the contest his. He was also leading his opponent to the ball. Harry W put his body on the line after racking up a some touches and tweaked a shoulder. Zac M had run his opponents ragged all day. He was 30m off where the ball was going to land and he got there and spoiled. Pumped. Giddy Z had been the player of the second half and was rewarded with putting the game beyond doubt with 2 huge goals. His class rose to the occasion. There was some more class before the siren, when Benny W showed his balance and poise banging home the sealer.
Then the siren made it real. We’d done it. We’d beaten the team who outplayed us twice during the year. We’d come together and had 22 boys who all contributed to the team’s success. For 100% of the match, 100% of the playing group gave 100% effort. We’d won a final. Emotion took over. The rooms were buzzing. It’s not over though. We’ve got one more task ahead of us.
We now look forward to Sunday. And guess who is there waiting… our old sparring partners, Ajax. It will be close, it will be nailbiting, but we will continue to instill belief in the boys and set them up for a shot at the Holy Grail! We will play with Passion, we will play with Teamwork, will play with Fun and we will always play with Respect!
I look forward to seeing as many family, friends and club people as possible to get behind us on Sunday.
C’mon! Let’s do this!
Go Hampton Rovers – best mates!