Sunday 5th August saw our U17 Sandy-Rovers travel to Highett to face Highett/Cheltenham (CHOGS). Poised as an important game for our lads, as if we were to claim victory, a top 2 spot on the ladder would be secured going into Finals in 2 weeks time. Looking back on our previous meeting, we were fortunate enough to run away victors by 7 goals in a tough and gritty contest on our home soil. However, away from home would be another test that we were ready to sink our teeth into.
The wind was again a heavily favourable factor at the coin toss, but we chose to up the difficulty and kick against the gale in the first term. The boys came out hard at the ball with strong, contested pressure being displayed all around the ground. CHOGS were able to match our intensity for most of the quarter but failed to capitalise on their wind advantage, kicking 1.5 = 11 to our steady and composed score of 2.3 = 15, bringing a slim 4-point lead going into the second term.
With morale high and a belief that we could build a sustainable lead, that’s exactly what we accomplished in the next quarter by adding a further 6 goals to zero in the 2nd term, claiming a 40-point lead at half time.
With momentum building, it was going to be difficult to stop the Sandy-Rovers in the second half, and this proved to be the case. Having another dominant quarter against a strong northerly wind, we extended our lead to 60 points heading into the final term.
With potential for complacency in the last quarter, the coaching team of Jessie and Tom decided to give players different roles and play them in unfamiliar positions. Tasks were given to the lads, which were taken on-board and seemed to work effectively as we ended the match with a flurry of goals, resulting in a strong 95 point win and cementing our 2nd position on the ladder. With our percentage now better than Bentleigh’s, they still (just) hold top position on points.
With finals looming, another solid display of football was pleasing to see, as the Sandy-Rovers are putting themselves it a great position to deal with the pressure that Finals can bring. Whilst on the topic of great performances, there were solid efforts from every team member, however some always rise above the rest and they included a best-on-ground game from Ben Marron, who booted 2 goals and gave wonderful release play out of our midfield. Zeb Skellern, whose defensive rebounding play in our backline and midfield was great all day, and lastly Kai Stewart who, although may not have been the most flamboyant player on the pitch, did his role to perfection and played easily his best match of the year.
With 3 solid performances behind us, we turn now to our final regular-season fixture, Bentleigh. This team had our measure twice this year and will also be our opponents in the first round of the Finals. I am confident however, that our style of play and execution (if applied for the full 4 quarters) will get the job done. Who knows, we just might just finish on top!