There are only a few strong rivals in sport. England v France, Australia v New Zealand and Canada v USA…None of them as strong as the kids from Bayside – Hampton v East Sandringham. Going into this match we knew that. We knew they would bring their A-Game. We knew they would train hard, we knew they had studied our methods and looked for our weaknesses, but we knew that Coach Sam had trained us hard and we were ready.
The weather was decidedly Canadian. Cold, misty rain, almost snowing…the wind was howling, but the hearts of the Rovers beat strong and warm. Coach Sam had a strategy. We would open with a strong forward line and look to get some early goals. We were going to clear it out of the midfield and just kick forward. With our Captains Ethan and Owen ready, Sam let the team know the plan. Carter was going to gather the ball and kick long off the back line if it went down there. Hudson DE was to tap the ball to Fraser off the bounce, and the mids were to just kick long into the space….and no bouncing.
East Sandy had the same plan as the Rovers, but they were able to execute it fast. Right off the start East Sandy overwhelmed the Rovers Mids and Backs and took some goals in quick succession. Coach Sam stopped the goal rush by moving Hunter into the back line and trying to pressure the Zebs in the midfield. There was definitely a 3 goal breeze blowing against Rovers. Hunter, Carter, Tommy, Owen and Ethan tried everything but they were pushing hard for every metre they could gain.
Coach Sam moved Owen to the back to create a stronger back line. He told the team that they must focus on their handballs and using the footy better. The Zebs are clearly going to kick for goal from wherever and we must be ready for that.
The team was fired up. Immediately they won the clearance from the middle and kicked the ball forward. Remembering their handballs and using the footy smarter, it wasn’t long before Huddy V kicked the ball forward in a long bomb to Harvey for him to kick a cheeky goal. Strong marks from Ethan and strong defence from Tommy B on the line brought the Rovers back into the game. Straight kicking from Aloysius was very helpful. The team was getting better at playing the ball and using their skills. Even with the strong wind against them the Zebs brought the ball to our back line several times – so the Rovers still had to work out how to defend better.
Coach Sam decided the team needed a full-on defence. Strong back line, kick forward no matter what, but keep the kicks low. When you take a mark, stop, count to three then kick. Control the ball. The wind would be against the Rovers this quarter and we have to play smarter.
The Zebs had decided to flood the midfield, but the Rovers had started to learn how they were moving the ball. Ethan stepped up and blocked everything, he wasn’t letting anything past. Arch worked with whatever he could, and Hunter and Fraser tried to move through a stacked midfield. There were some sensational team efforts. Owen kicking to Ethan and then to Carter moved the ball forward and the boys took their time to kick, Tommy ran as hard as he could when he got the ball, Josh watching for Hudson V’s lead to kick to him, and a sensation passage of play from Fraser kicking from the back to Ethan, who handballed to Hunter and he kicked the ball all the way to the forwards. When this happened Coach Sam said “when we put into practice our training, things go well!” and he is right.
3rd Quarter Time
Coach Sam called out Ethan for having an amazing quarter. He told the team we run into trouble every time we try to bounce the ball. We need to kick long. We have to remember our training and play smarter footy.
This was all about the back line. In an attempt to kick more goals, Coach Sam just moved everyone to the midfield or the forward line and left only three players in the back. Hudson DE, Fraser and Josh. Hunter showed moments of brilliance in the midfield with kicks to Jack, and Jack with a great kick forward into space, but the three out back were sensational. In an amazing 3 on 1 situation, Josh stopped a certain goal and turned it into a point. Hudson DE and Fraser just cleared everything.
In the end it was the first quarter that had decided the game, however the rest of the game was very tight. Sam called out the 3 person back line as being fantastic, and Ethan as having had the best game he played all year.
It won’t be the last time the Rovers play the Zebras. Next time, the Rovers will be ready!
Written by Pat Dieter