Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! Unfortunately, the Rovers were not there today – playing on a beautiful, but windswept, oval in Caulfield. Ajax are a good strong team and the Rovers knew they had to play their best. The parents were all bleary-eyed from a massive early morning of one of the most nail-biting tests of democracy in the world – Eurovision! Since Australia didn’t win there…maybe we could win today at Caulfield to make it all better.
The team quickly got into their drills, with Dan getting the crew warmed up while master strategist Sam shuffled the positions around and cooked up a strategy… The wind was going to be a massive factor – it was blowing a gale and sideways to the ground…it was clearly going to have an impact on the ball. With the strategy and placements ready Sam called the team together.
Archer and Thomas B were the captains today. The message was simple – Rovers were going to keep the space and make sure they were leading when the ball was marked. Give the team options to kick to! And with that, the Captains led the team out to the cheers of the crowd!
Ball up and Rovers won the ball but were immediately tested by Ajax. Ajax pushed forward with the ball and broke through with a strong mark right in front of goal. With the first score on the board the Rovers knew they had to lift.
Tommy B got the ball early and disposed it quickly to Hunter who ran and booted one over to Josh. It was a great passage of play, but the Ajax defenders were too much and quickly cleared it back to the middle. Luckily Hunter was able to mark it strongly and run again this time kicking to Hudson V who managed to find the other Hudson (DE) up front and booked a score on the run. Ajax dug in in defence and some scrappy play led to the first major on the board from Hudson V.
The two Hudsons up front seemed to be working very well and Fraser was working as hard as he could in the middle to bring the ball to them. Twice Ajax were threatening and with Jack and Carter in defence, they were clearing the ball to Fraser who ran it up the wing to the forwards. It was great playing and good thinking. It was working.
Tommy was strong in his tackles and Josh was too…and Hunter…well it looked like he brought all his defensive skills to the middle to of the ground!
At quarter time Sam had some good notes – the team was playing well and listening to each other. Carter and Tommy B were attacking the footy. Sam wanted the team to remember not to turn their back to the field on a mark. Always push back, have the shot. Watch for handballs he shouted as the team ran out for the second quarter.
It was always going to be hard to kick goals in this wind. Fraser got the first clearance through to Ernie in a great passage of play. The next play saw Tommy and Hunter teaming up to crack the Ajax mids and Arch up front finished it off. Wow! This was getting good for the Rovers. With the ball in the middle and a cheeky disposal from Fraser to Hudson DE another was notched up. Ajax was in disarray. The Rovers were now out-thinking them and out-playing them comprehensively!
Josh marked in the middle and moved it forward again for another shot at goal but the wind was not helping anyone. The quarter was amazing to watch. The Rovers were everywhere. Fraser, Tommy and Hunter made sure Ajax couldn’t trouble their forwards and Arch, Strato, the Hudsons, Ernie and Tommy B cleaned up everything that came to them. The wind was the only opposition for a while in the quarter and prevented some cracking goals, but a fantastic effort from the kids!
Even in contested and scrappy plays there were cheeky scoring opportunities being taken. The team listening to each other, kick the ball to the players who were open and really playing as a team. Towards the end of the quarter Ajax found their feet after an overwhelming effort by the Rovers and managed to score, but it wasn’t easy for them from the Rovers mids and defence.
At half-time Sam said it was the best quarter of play he had ever seen from the team. The team was clearly tired, but the oranges perked them up. There was much rich discussion about the oranges with some remarks from the team overheard like “this one is sour” and “they are better when they are sour” as well as “I prefer blood oranges”.
Sam’s notes were important. Midfield – good separation and sharing of the ball. Backs – even if there is no footy coming to you it is important to be switched on and paying attention! Have the confidence to pick up the ball. Sam shouts out “Are we going to kick the first goal?!”
“Probably!” the team shouts back as they take the field.
Well it didn’t start to plan. Ajax clearly had a good pep talk and reworked their plans. They had worked out how to pressure the Rovers and the kids had to think on their feet. In a clever passage of play the forwards juggled the ball among themselves with Huddy V kicking over to Huddy DE who passed it to Ernie but the wind took it to a minor. Great skills were on display from Ernie who held the ball with one hand over the head of his opponent!
Ethan and Owen were making sure the Ajax forwards had a tough time and Strato discovered a great way to smother their kicks. He managed to do it twice and with great impact. Strato found Josh a few times in great play and Aloysius was very spirited in defence.
At the quarter it was clear that Ajax was going to push hard for the win. The Rovers needed to break and rest up for a strong finish. Sam asked the team what was worse, wind or rain. “Rain!” they shouted.
It was on. It was clear that the wind was not going to help anyone. It pushed the ball to the leeward side of the field and was causing havoc. Caspar was reading the ball really well by now and just seemed to be in Ajax’s way every time they tried to run. Rovers were tested hard in the middle but Caspar was really stepping up. Ethan booted a few his way and with Hunter, Jack and Josh they were able to rush the ball forwards. Ajax really piled on the pressure but could only get the points and not the goals.
The final bell rang and the Rovers were out of breath. A few fell to the ground puffing. Give it your all! Jake, playing up, played very well with a mention from Sam, and the three younger players in the team held their own. Josh got a special mention as did Arch for his magic up front.
The team congratulated Ajax. It was quite the test. It required a lot of thinking and good communication, smart footy and great disposals. In the end, arm in arm, everyone knew they had done it. They played well out there in windy Caulfield.
With a great voice they sang: Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside!