The Northern Football Netball League’s Under-14A Division 1 team were crowned premiers at the 2018 AFL Victoria Metro Junior Championships.
After topping the ladder at the end of the group stage, the boys saved their best performance for the grand final, claiming the title with a 14.12 (96) to 4.8 (32) win over South Metro Junior Football League at Eltham Central Park.
After an even first quarter, the boys stretched their lead at every quarter – finishing with a flurry with six unanswered goals in the last quarter to run away 64-point winners.
Lachlan Watson won the best on ground medal, ahead of Jarrad Seiter, Jordan Nguyen and Henry Way. Cooper Harvey also put in a starring performance with four goals.
Speaking after the win, NFNL coach Matthew Hogg praised the even contribution of the entire team in the grand final, which gave the league its first boys title at the Championships since 2006.
“In a grand final you need a minimum of 80 percent contributors on the day. You can’t leave it up to the most talented players to do everything. I knew there was no reason we couldn’t have everyone make an impact and that’s what happened,” Hogg said.
“I was pretty confident we would get to where we did, to be honest because I knew we had a talented group from pre-season.
“My focus was making sure the boys improved their skills, their understanding of the game and ball movement. We all work on our skills and fundamentals, but the biggest thing I worked on was around consistency at training, along with intensity and pressure and that’s what they basically did.
“We really focused on their training form and when we came to the carnival games we had a good game plan around each of the opposition and we structured up really well.”
Hogg said a motivational video compiled by himself and former Carlton teammate Brett Ratten had help the side prepare in the lead-up to the grand final.
Shown to the players on the Wednesday prior to the decider, Hogg said the main messages from the video centred on setting the tone early in the game, working as a team and doing the basics well.
“We put together a video around the journey they’d had throughout the whole carnival and pre-season,” Hogg said.
“We had a message from Brett Ratten which I showed to the boys last Wednesday that Brett helped me put together a few years ago.
“That was all about what Hawthorn did in preparation for a grand final and working on the lead-up to the game and the key focus areas.
“We got together in a big huddle before the game and I just covered those three focus areas off again.”
Hogg said the result yesterday was a positive reflection on the changes made to the program this year.
“We worked a lot more on ball movement, structures and strategy. In the last few years it’s been more focused on fitness and a couple of skill techniques,” Hogg said.
“We had some really late nights. The under-14s usually train from 5:00pm to 6:30pm and the under-15s go from 6:30pm to around 8:00pm. This year we switched them around. Some nights we didn’t finish until 8:30pm.
“We certainly put a lot of hard work in. Some of the kids were coming from Kilmore and Whittlesea and that showed their commitment and despite being challenging for the kids and parents everyone stuck together and nobody complained.”
Reflecting on the representative program, Hogg paid tribute to everyone who supported the team from the trial stage, right through to the grand final win.
While loathe to single out any individual players, he gave credit to Ben Little – who missed the Championships after breaking his leg days before the first match – and William Plain who played the three group games but missed the grand final.
“The group that Brett Potter put together has made a big difference,” Hogg said.
“We had great assistants in Rick Allan and Graham Bowen. Rick played at St Kilda alongside Tony Lockett and for him to be involved and help out was important. We kicked more goals in these four games than we probably have in the past few years combined.
“Graham Bowen as a backline coach built a really good relationship with the players and we hardly had any goals kicked on us throughout the four games.
“We had an amazing team manager in Leanne Kalpakis, who created a really good culture at training. It was a really team effort from everyone involved.
“Brett Watson is the dad of Lachlan Watson, who was best on ground yesterday. He was the medic. He would have loved to have just sat there and watched his kid play but he was focusing on all the other kids and making sure if they had any injuries he was managing them.
“It’s also important to recognise the three coaches of the B team. We all trained together until five weeks before the first game. Jason McBean, Daryl Delos and Phil Stavrou were also a major part of a big team effort.”
The entire Northern Football Netball League congratulates all players, coaches, volunteers and parents involved with the Under-14 team on their success at the Championships.