Coach: Greg Coleman
With the Fitzroy U14s made up of a blend of 15 players from the Brown team and 7 from the Blue, the focus less about a particular game plan or positional roles, and simply on team work – doing the team 1%ers like shepherding, talking, running in numbers, and having the vision to share the ball to any Fitzroy jumpers in good position.
First quarter, kicking with a slight wind advantage, Fitzroy made a fast start, winning the contests and then linking to outside runners. The occasional Macleod forward entries were often repelled by our cohesive backline, and fast rebounding saw the ball repeatedly pumped inside our 50. James Wright got us on the board with an early snapped goal and Jason King got into space on the end of a chain of possessions and slotted one on the run. But aside for those, we tended to blaze a little rather than look laterally for team mates in better position. As a consequence, we kicked something like 2.7 in the first, and when Macleod goaled very late in the quarter, our dominance around the ground wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.
The pattern of play continued early in the second, with us going forward on plenty of occasions but often wasting our opportunities. And then Macleod started to click. With hard running, they began outnumbering us at the contests and spread to the extent that the quarter ended up being a display of their uncontested possessions. The backline tried hard with George Dellaportas attacking the footy, Ali McDonald saving a goal with a desperate touch on the line and John Jorgensen standing up for some important marks against superior numbers. But we still went to rooms at half time 10 points down and looking and sounding a little shell-shocked.
Even though an inconsequential practice match isn’t exactly “backs-to-the-wall” stuff, it was funny how the call of “premiership quarter” became the mantra of the players.
The half time plea was for repeat running efforts to get numbers behind the ball and set up some attacking waves, and it wasn’t long into the third quarter that it was evident that that challenge had been accepted. Bill Clayton was impassable at centre half back and with Dennis Curnow providing constant run on his flank, we were looking much better. And when our midfielders started lowering their eyes to pick out forward targets (Ted Clayton and Josh Broderick to James Ward and Zander Phokos respectively for set shot goals), we were back in front.
The last quarter got far more tense than any practice match should be. We kept peppering the points and Macleod took those let-offs and kept coming. A brilliant non-preferred-left-foot goal from Josh Broderick on a tight angle gave us a little breathing space, but Macleod answered – their last putting them 3 points up with a couple of minutes to play. When they got the next centre clearance and had the ball deep in their forward line, it looked over. But true to the song, a do-or-die effort saw the ball whisked out of defence, taken quickly around the wing where Samuel Creati gathered and found Louis David Hanna in space in the forward line. That space was gone in an instant as the desperate Macleod defenders closed, but Louis managed to get a kick to the goal square where Tyler McGregor popped up for mark and goal to put us back in front just in time.
You couldn’t ask for a better hit-out against a team with the quality and tenacity of Macleod. Bring on the real thing!