U15 – 2 – 2011

button Contacts

Coaches

Chris Rawlings
Chrisrawlings53@optusnet.com.au

0408 556 339
Rick Cucanic
slangman@hotmail.com

0418 516 616

Team Managers

Zora Marko
zoramarko@optusnet.com.au
Liz O’Connor
lzoconnor@optusnet.com.au

button Round 15

FJFC U-15 (2) 5.11 (41) lt Whitehorse Colts 8.13 (51) at Springfield Park, August 7, 2011

We were plunged back in to winter for the final match of the season, set against a threatening sky and staged on a ground that the home team would call a ”charming”slope. Visitors would call it something else. It was nice to have Andre back after recovering from his broken wrist but his return didn’t disguise how hard the team had been hit by injuries and illness during the year. Connor was ill and Charlie had been laid up all week with a lurgy but was determined to play. As the big boys say, if you’re fit enough to run out, you’re fit enough to play.

The Colts had been in some precarious form and dropped a couple of matches they probably thought they should have won. They sounded on song in the pre-match but that might have been nerves. The Roy Boys were a bit more philosophical – fifth spot was probably the best they could hope for but then again, they had pushed some of the good sides during the year. It was the teams third encounter of the year and the Roys first appearance at the Colts home ground. It felt like anything could happen.

The game started slowly. There were some good individual efforts that showed the boys were switched on: John took a good mark in defence, Fonty put his head down and attacked the ball and Panda laid a couple of stinging tackles. Kent, who was skipper for the day, made a great spoil only to see it sharked by the Colts for their first major. The pressure on the Roys’ defence was ceaseless. It seemed that the wall would fall at any time and sure enough, the Colts grabbed two quick goals. Seb was busy and creative under pressure and Nix took a fine mark to set up Luke, who narrowly missed converting. Sam Hodder added another point with his trademark snap but then Pat took a neat sidestep on the forward flank and drilled the pass to Charlie, who latched on to the chest mark. Moments later the goal umpire was waving both flags and the Roys had their first goal of the day, courtesy of Charlie’s straight kick. There was time enough left in the first quarter for Andre to show why he had been missed this season when he took a great mark to relieve pressure on the full-back line and managed to run the ball out to safety.

The message was simple at quarter time: Rick told the boys to start exerting some forward pressure. Lock it in Roys. Keep that ball in the forward line. It was only a 16-point game after all. Well, it was great advice and the boys followed it to the letter, exerting a strong grip on the footy whenever it crossed in to their forward 50. Panda was awarded a free in the goal square and kicked truly. Sam Hodder and Wiz added a point each but the overwhelming feeling was that the game’s intensity had lifted. The Colts knew they were in a contest. The Roys’ endeavour was fantastic: Sam Howard dived and made a great spoil, and then Luke’s good chase and pressure on his opponent triggered a turn over that led to Lochie running on to a loose ball and dribbling through the Roys’ third goal of the match. And although the Colts quickly replied, there was a sense at half time that the game could go either way.

Twice during the opening minutes of the third term, Kent took the ball out of boundary throw in and just missed. Then Al found his way through traffic to kick the goal that levelled the scores. Game on boys! Kai, who had been given the job of stopping the speedy No. 10, was finding himself at the bottom of packs, such was his desire for the Sherrin. There were plenty of stoppages because it was a hard and physical contest. The Colts snagged a couple of points, including a poster and Lochie added another behind for the Roys. Jesse took another fine mark in defence but it was Wiz with that tricky  left foot hook around his body that gave the Roys’ their fifth goal and a sniff of victory. As the siren sounded for three quarter time,  the Roys  were only three points behind.

Well, sometimes dreams come true and sometimes reality triumphs. Within a couple of minutes of the final quarter getting underway, the Colts scooted clear with two goals. Diggers had been superb in defence or in at centre half-forward and Kent had played his heart out but neither could stop the shift in momentum that the goals brought. Al drilled a point but the Colts stitched up the result with another goal late in the quarter. The final margin was a respectable 20 points. It had been a hard and tough encounter, which was pretty much the spirit of the Roys’ season. It is a big challenge to carry the success of a premiership in to a higher division. There were plenty of things to learn along the journey, including the reminder that winning flags doesn’t come easily. But then again, there’s always next year.

button Round 14

FJFC U-15 (3) 14.8 (92) d Preston 7.1 (43) at Brunswick St, July 31, 2011

Who would have thought it? All those years ago, a group of little boys – and they were little – came together to start their footy journey with the Roys. Many stayed through the tough winters and others joined them. By Sunday, July 31, 2011 there were three of them who could lay claim to a hundred games of junior footy. All three of the boys – Luke, Patrick and Kieran – were part of last year’s premiership team. Patrick and Kieran were also part of that first under-10 Fitzroy blue team that jagged a flag at its first attempt all those years ago. Many of the boys from that premiership side are still part of the Fitzroy family. And on Sunday, the banner went up to mark the magic 100 for the premiership trio.

It couldn’t have been a better day: spring-like, warm and a gentle breeze. It was almost finals’ weather. Preston was struggling for numbers, so the Roys matched the visitors 14 and created a bench of three. It meant the game was going to be open and demand a fair bit of running.

Former Bullants Fonty and Panda were given a bit of a reception by the visitors, but it seemed only to spur the two boys to greater heights. They would both play smart games. But the opening minutes were inconclusive, with neither team able to get an advantage. Preston’s version of Nic Natanui was in everything, dreadlocks flying, and he kicked the first goal from a free in the square. The Roys instantly replied when Wiz roved Charlie’s tap and roosted it long and straight where Sam Hodder artfully ran on to it for a major. Now the match started to settle: Preston added another goal but a few of the Roys were getting plenty of the footy. Mu attacked the ball with vigour and Jesse tackled with trademark determination. Kent was swinging across half-back, cleaning up loose balls and spilled marks. Panda latched on to one in the forward pocket and curved it around his body for the Roys’ second. Moments later Panda found himself with the ball in his hand and his back to the goals, so he kicked it over his head for a remarkable goal. When Wiz dobbed one from his non-preferred side, the Roys had kicked to a 13-point lead at the first break.

When the match resumed, Digby showed his stunning form, marking, weaving and running the ball out of defence. Wiz found himself hard against the boundary line and then kicked his second with his right foot, and then Panda dribbled through another. Al carved his way through a couple of defenders and centred the ball beautifully for Mu to mark directly in front. He converted and after Sam Howard laid a great tackle down back, the Roys moved the ball downfield quickly for Panda to kick another and the Roys’ ninth. It was a five goal quarter for the Roys while Preston went scoreless. At half-time, the difference was a hefty 43 points.

The Roys had played smooth and confident footy in the second part of the second quarter but they lost their way when the game resumed. Their confidence seemed to dry up and the run that had been part of their success stopped. Preston scored early. Then Lochie managed to trap a bouncinmg ball in the Roys’ forward line and drilled home the Roys’ tenth goal from 25m. And then a chain of possession from Patrick to Panda and on to Lochie gave the same result. The Roys peppered the goals and racked up five behinds while Luke took an outstanding sliding mark that you would pay good money to see at the MCG. In the dying minutes of the quarter, Preston snagged its third goal but it looked like a big ask for them: no bench and almost a nine-goal margin.

Still, the Bullants gave it a red-hot go. They tackled hard, showed heaps of desperation and run and for most of the last quarter refused to surrender. They kicked two quick ones without the Roys looking like scoring before Pat, down on the forward line, took an uncontested mark in front to kick the Roys’ 12th and give the boys a bit of breathing space. John had been a powerful defender all day and he did some strong work in the final quarter. Kai started to find a bit of the Sherrin in the middle of the ground and slowly the Roys re-asserted themselves. Preston added another pair of goals but Kieran, in the midst of a purple patch in the forward pocket, managed to lock the ball in the Roys’ forward line where Lochie kicked his third. Not long after Luke passed to Lochie who dobbed another a moment before the siren sounded. It was a worthy celebration for the centenarians but also a solid effort from all the Roys.

button Round 13

FJFC U-15 (3) 2.5 (17) lt Doncaster Heights 13.12 (90) at Templestowe Reserve,
July 24, 2011

THIS was a day for old-time footy: those who wanted the ball would have to get their hands dirty, their shorts muddy and their boots soaked. It rained most of the morning. The air was dank and cold. The surface at Templestowe Reserve was slick with water in places and greasy with mud in others. Top of the ladder Doncaster wear the Fremantle strip and there was plenty of heave ho about their effort in the wet. Donny were quick, strong and focussed. They scored first with an impressive goal from the opening bounce. And for a moment,  a first quarter blow-out loomed. But the Roys settled. Kieran showed terrific desperation when he slid in to a tackle and Lochie was busy to register the Roys’ first score, a point. Moments later Wiz showed plenty of nouse to rove the kick-in and goal. Donny was pushing hard and the defence had to be strong: Kai applied a series of stunning tackles that slowed Donny’s progress and Diggers laid two outstanding smothers. Panda was also mopping up across half-back but even those efforts could not stop Donnie adding two more majors before the first break. Even so, there was only 11 points the difference at quarter time and the Roys could feel that they were still in touch.

All that changed when the second quarter started. Donnie Heights blitzed them, slamming on 5.4 for the quarter and kept the Roys scoreless. It was tough work in the cold and mud for the visitors, although Sebastian found a way to win a hard-ball and Sam Howard made a terrific spoil in defence. Donny were full of chat, reassuring each other and urging their mates on. It was good positive football from the ladder-leader and the Roys struggled to match Donny’s forward firepower. Connor felt ill before the game and could not take his place until the last quarter.

As the watery sunshine appeared for the first time in the match early in the third quarter, Patrick took a juggling mark – the Roys’ first of the match – at half-back and tried to set something up. Jesse took a good mark too but it was Charlie, who had rucked with determination, who took a mark and kicked a point to flag the Roys’ ailing hopes.  Jauan showed real desire to attack the ball and won a turnover but Donny added another two goals for the quarter to lead by a healthy 59 points.

The Roys showed some real heart in the final quarter. Connor took his place and with only two left on the bench, the Roys went hard. Wiz kicked the boys’ second, from a boundary throw-in and Luke had a couple of telling touches. Charlie stood tall with two big overhead marks and then Pat went down after a big tackle that left him on the bench for the final minutes. Donny added three more goals for the quarter to run out big winners but the Roys never gave up.

button Round 12

FJFC U-15 (2) 8.12 (60) d Boorandara Hawks 2.7 (19) at Gordon Barnard Reserve, Sunday, July 17, 2011

Well, it’s probably fair to say that on paper this game looked like a bit of a challenge for the Roys: the Hawks were up and about and cemented in the final four. And the Roys were struggling for consistency, partly because of the injury list, partly because form can be a elusive thing.

But after a scrappy opening few minutes when both teams struggled to shake off their holiday blues, the Roys settled in to a groove that they stayed in for the rest of the match. They were resolute, determined and wanted the ball. There were players across the ground who put themselves in to the thick of it – Mu was strong at half-forward, Kai was powerful in defence, Fonty attacked the ball hard, Digby took some contested marks, Seb was busy, Sam Hodder took two big marks within a couple of minutes and Wiz showed some desperation. It was no wonder the Roys monopolised the scoring, racking up several points before Mo won a free kick in the goal square when he was tackled as he waited to receive a pass. The goal gave the Roys the lead at quarter time and some stirring support from Chris and Rick at the first break.

Chris urged the boys to believe in themselves and they resumed with the same high level of intensity. Pat and Lochie chased a loose ball in tandem across half-back before trapping it and finding Jesse on the lead. Jesse found Connor in what was a smooth piece of forward play and a point resulted.  The Hawks raced forward and Fonty’s wonderful smother on the last line of defence saved the Roys. Sam Howard and Kai were working beautifully in the backline, ensuring the Hawks didn’t break through. When the ball was punted in to the Roys’ forward line, and it spilled free from a contested mark, Sam Hodder was there to snatch the crumbs and dribble through the Roys’ second goal. The Hawks pulled it back with a goal from a free but Kent defied further inroad into the Roys’ lead with a big mark in defence before the siren sounded for half-time.

The Roys lead by a goal at half-time. In previous weeks, Connor’s foot injury confined him to the pine. This time, though, he was able to take his place in the forward line. And it started to make a difference. The wind was a little stronger and the sky a little greyer when the championship quarter began. It turned out to be the Roys’ quarter. They dominated general play, allowing the Hawks to enter their forward 50 only three times and holding them scoreless. At the other end of the ground, the Roys’ scoring was like waiting for a tram: it take a while for the first one to arrive but after that, you can get knocked over in the rush. Ahmed dobbed a point and then Wiz bounced off a tackler and curved one around his body for a goal. Then Connor couldn’t quite hang on to the mark, but trapped the bouncing ball and booted it through. Connor added another behind and then converted after marking a lovely kick from Digby. Mu scored a point and then Ahmed snapped truly. The Roys stretched the lead to 31 points by the three quarter time siren.

The boys were talking a lot, showing some confidence in each other, supporting the good things and establishing what looked like a winning momentum. Charlie was terrific around the ground, charging in to contests to help create spillages that worked to the Roys’ advantage. Sam Hodder was injured and limped to the bench where he joined Luke, who had a bung ankle. Rick threw Fonty behind the ball in defence. In the opening few minutes Fonty picked up three telling possessions that helped drive the Roys in to attack. A couple of points stretched the lead and then Mo launched one from the outside of his boot to score the goal that just about sealed it. The Hawks managed their second moments later but it didn’t seem there was enough time for them. When a Hawk defender chipped the ball off the ground into Wiz’s diving arms, it looked like curtains for the Hawks. Wiz was jammed hard in the pocket but slotted the goal that ensured the Roys would sing the song. There was time enough for Nix to take a big contested mark and Jaqan to show his opponent a clean pair of heels through the middle of the ground before the siren sounded to record a terrific Roys win by 41 points.

button Round 11

FJFC U-15 (3) 7.5 (47) lt Bundoora 7.7 (49), July 3 2011 at Brunswick St

You could hear the Bundoora coach in the rooms in the minutes before the game. “This is your only chance to beat these guys this year. There’s not other game against them. This is it.” The Bundoora boys were clearly still stinging after the Roys beat them in the pouring rain on Mother’s Day. So Bundoora had a bit of motivation. Did the Roys have such a thing? Well, there are several ways to answer that: perhaps yes, time will tell, or perhaps no. At various stages of the game, all three were true.

Bundoora certainly started well and looked strong and committed. They won a string of free kicks because they were first to the ball and it was no surprise when they kicked the first goal. The Roys looked flat and even a little sleepy. Still, there were some good momnents when Kai applied a good spoil and Al ran rings around his opponent. When Al screwed one around the corner and found Connor right next to the goal post, it was a good way for the skipper to put the Roys on the board. Bundoora quickly replied but Kent’s trademark snap out of traffic left the Roys only a point behind at quarter time.

Chris was exactly right at the first break: the boys needed to get to the ball first. Bundoora was beating them to the contest. Somehow the Roys were still in the game. The intensity lifted and the game started to see-saw. Mo nicked around a goal-square pack to kick the Roys’ third but Bundoora soon answered. Seb was getting a fair bit of the ball and Jesse’s shepherding was terrific but the Roys didn’t have any clear winners. Then Jordan, who had been doing well, fell under a Bundoora boy and had to be stretchered off. It was a nasty impact and x-rays later showed that it was broken ankle. It was a tough blow because Jordan has made a big contribution since he joined the team. Only a point separated the teams at half-time.

The game fell in to a lacklustre pattern after the main break. The Roys struggled to make headway and their disposal was wayward. Connor went straight to the bench with his footy boot in his hand, succumbing again to his injured foot. Somehow, the Roys found a way through. Fonty, showing great courage in his first game back after a back injury, started to find some form and Panda’s foot skills were impressive. Bundoora kicked a goal to lead by seven points but Ahmed took a great mark as the ball floated over his shoulder and then kicked the goal. A couple of points put the Roys in front and when Wiz dribbled one across goal for Lochie to charge on to it like a rampaging soccer striker to jam home the goal, the Roys had a handy seven-point lead going in to the final quarter.

Bundoora started better and quickly went from deficit to lead with two impressive goals. The Roys, as they had been most of the day, were back to chasing their opponents, on the ground and on the scoreboard. Bundoora added another goal and a behind to establish what looked like a match-winning lead. Ahmed snagged one and then got on to another after a booming Charlie kick landed in the goal square but there was never going to be enough time for the Roys. And sure enough, the siren sounded with the Roys two points adrift.

button Round 9

FJFC U-15 2 11.5 (71) d St Marys 7.4 (46) at Brunswick St, June 19, 2011

There’s always a bit of feeling when these two clubs meet, even though as the boys have got older there are a few on each team who actually go to school together at Parade. But once the ball is bounced, it’s game on. And after a week off, with a cool morning, and high cloud, it looks like we’re set for a cracking match. The Roys have another new recruit, Daniel (aka Panda), from Preston and the bench is almost groaning with a full complement. There’s a good feeling in the Roys’ rooms and Rick sends them on their way with the simple message –  “Use your brains.”

The Roy boys start well and are busy all over the ground. but the opening minutes are a scramble of arms and legs. Fonty roves the pack and gets the first score, a point but Ahmed is on to a loose ball moments later and soccers through a goal. Lochie is busy and Seb gets a couple of clever centre clearances. Nix takes two powerful overhead marks to show he’s in good touch. The reliable goal sneak, Sam Hodder, kicks the Roys’ second and the boys, halfway through the first quarter, look to have settled better. Then St Marys pull a goal back in a forward line without a Fitzroy jumper to be seen. Yet the wind is picking up and its blowing the Roys’ way: Wiz finds some space and dobs one of his specials, on the run from inside half-forward. He is in the thick of it again moments later, finding Connor who kicks the Roys’ fourth. and although St Marys respond with another goal, Fitzroy finish the quarter with a 12-point lead.

They look like they’re up for it today and the ball is soon going back in to the Roys’ forward line when play resumes. Patrick handballs to Connor for a goal, while key playmakers, such as Lochie, Wiz – and Panda, settling in beautifully – are winning the ball. Wiz and Connor combine again for Connor to kick his third and the Roys second in two minutes. St Marys try to assert themselves but Kent across half-back goes in hard, grabs the footy, looses, then wins it back again in a terrific second effort. Charlie is imposing himself on the game, with some strong bodywork and the defence seems to be holding firm. But the wind is a challenge and the soft ground is treacherous: marks that had been held started to spill and boys who had been sure-footed suddenly seemed to lose their traction at the critical time. St Marys seize their chance and ram on a couple of quick goals. Against the run of play, Connor finds Lochie with a handball and Lochie drills it for a much-needed goal before St Marys post another two goals before the main break. It’s three points the difference and it’s anyone’s match.

Rick and Chris make some changes at half-time. Connor’s injured toe means he has to sit out the second half and the forward line has to be rebuilt. Kent is swapped from centre half-back with Patrick at centre half-forward, reverting to the set-up from earlier in the season. The move starts to pay dividends as both boys work their way in to the game. Kent latches on to a Wiz pass and then sends it forward where Lochie goals. Soon after Kent seizes a loose ball and hammers it forward where Sam Hodder tracks the ball – and slips his opponent – with rare skill to kick a beauty on the run. The boys are starting to get some momentum: it’s vital because St Marys will be coming home with the wind. So the Roys surge forward again and this time Mo gets a high tackle in the goal square. Slowly, steadily and calmly he slots the goal and the Roys have built are four-goal buffer going in to the last quarter. Is it enough?

The plan is simple: keep the ball on the non-scoring side of the ground, on the city side where the coaches are. And it works a treat. The Roys trap the ball in there, with the defence working tirelessly to ensure St Marys can’t get through. It’s hard work though and Fonty gets an accidental knee in the back that leaves him sick and sore. And in the way that footy works, everyone regroups and keeps playing. A free kick to Mu gives him the chance to ice the game, which he does without fuss. And although St Marys tumble a goal through, the result seems clear. The Roys kept St Marys scoreless in the third and conceded only a goal in the last. It was a sterling effort that delivered the Roys boys their first win at home for the season.

button Round 8

FJFC U-15 (3) 9.6 (60) lt Whitehorse Colts 13.9 (87) at Brunswick St, June 5, 2011

After seven rounds, the Roys find themselves in the four, after defeating Preston and earning four points plus a good percentage boost. It’s clear at the half-way mark that the competition for that fourth spot will be intense: there are five teams jockeying for it, and three teams above them, secure in seeing finals action. One of those teams is Whitehorse Colts who blew the Roys away in the first game of the season.

Things are little different this time. The Roy Boys have a bit more fitness and confidence. Their game has expanded. So has the team. Christian Fontana (alias Fonty) has a clearance from Preston and lines up in the starting 18. Jacquan has an injured shoulder and takes over interchange steward duty, but the team looks robust and ready for action. Pity about the wind: it’s cruel and cold, and the Roys start with it. The gale has an immediate impact. The footy curves and dips when the Roys move forward and then it hangs on an invisible hook when the Colts try moving it out of defence. Yet the Colts have immediate success, tearing it out of the middle, bombing it long and scoring a goal. Did anyone see what happened? Yep, it was that quick. The Roys manage to trap it in their forward line for the next few minutes, with the ball bouncing around between wing and half-forward. Connor scores a point and then Pat deftly taps the ball to Sam Hodder who finishes the job with the Roys’ first goal. Jordan has been a real contributor in defence since he joined the team and today is no different, mounting a big attack on the ball and winning the free. The Colts, though, regain possession and snag another major. There are some good signs for the Roys: Diggers is up and about, Charlie is inspirational with a second effort that wins him the footy and Wiz peppers the goals. Then Fonty, who has been busy across the ground, puts the ball out in front of Sam Hodder who runs on to it and kicks the goal. At quarter time, it’s the Roys by a point.

The huddle is a little wary at the break. The wind is still swirling about and Chris hatches a plan to stop the Colts getting too much of an advantage. He sends seven boys in to the back half and opens up the forward line. “We have to be desperate this quarter,” he tells them. “We have to stop them.” The message is clear: with a wind that strong, anything less than a resolute defence will lead to a blow-out. The intention is sound but the Colts go for broke: they start with a running goal from their swift rover and follow it quickly with three more. The lead has gone and the margin has blow to 23 points. For a while the Roys hold the line although some of their disposals seem more hopeful than intentional. Kai follows up his great game last week with some desperate work at half-back, while Luke, and then Lochie start to get some quality touches. Yet when half-time comes, the difference is 34 points and the Roys have registered a scoreless quarter.

You can put your faith in a divine wind to turn the game around or you can just keep working hard, do the basics and believe the game will turn. The problem with conditions like this though is that you need to be able to read the play, adapt your game and think clearly. Charlie did all of those things when he grabs one out of the pack and dobs a beaut goal in the opening moments to give the Roys a bit of hope. Sam Howard is industrious in defense and he is needed as the Colts keep threatening. Then Lochie bumps and chases and then kicks the ball forward for Sam Hodder to kick his third. And just when the Roys gather some momentum, the Colts grab one back, and re-assert their lead. Fonty responds, with a cool goal from a loose ball but the Colts repeat their success and have a commanding five goal-lead going in to the last quarter.

This time, Chris urges the boys to concentrate on winning the quarter. It’s good advice because it builds on their success in the third term when they outscored the Colts 3.3 to 2.0. The challenge this time is to do it into the wind. There is a sense that boys take a deep breath to steel themselves as the umpire throws it up to start the final quarter. Connor’s foot is playing up after he had a turn in the ruck, and the forward line is shifted around. From the grandstand, it looks like the Roys have acres of space forward of the centre. But they are soon in to attack and Fonty has his second. Could it be that the wind has calmed, maybe even changed direction? Kent’s roaming across half-back is starting to make a difference and the ball suddenly seems to be in the Roys’ forward line more often. Fonty dobs another and then Wiz seizes the ball on the far side of the ground, takes a casual bounce or two and kicks a beauty to narrow the gap to just 15 points. There is a sense that maybe the Roys are stirring. Against the run of play, the Colts pull a goal back but the Roys will not lie down. Pat passes to Al who goes back and drills the goal to bring it back to less than three goals. It’s stirring stuff but the Colts have set sail for home and kick two quick goals to snuff out the Roys’ brave’ resistance. The Roys have indeed won the final quarter, against the wind and against a very good opposition. In fact, the Roys won the first, third and and final quarters but couldn’t get over the line.

button Round 7

FJFC U-15 (2) 16.7 (108) d Preston Bullants 4.7 (31) at Preston City Oval, May 29, 2011

Another early game. This time a touch of fog and a days’ worth of earthworks on the Epping train line just outside the Bullants’ home ground. Lachie Grace came in to the team after an injury-hit couple of years, Connor returned from a bad foot and Martin Deasey was also back, two weeks after limping off with a corkie. Rick and Chris had a good size bench to deal with for one of the few times this season. And although the centre of the ground showed how much rain had fallen in the past week, most of the vast expanses of the oval were in reasonable condition.

The Roys had shown a bit in the first quarters of recent matches and they started with the same intensity. Kai was given the job of shutting down the Bullants’ main playmaker and he was soon in to the action, preventing Preston getting a sniff in the opening minutes. It was Al who managed to kick the first major and set the Roys away, but there were plenty of eager contributors across the park.

Rick and Chris shifted the team around for the start: Digby went down back and Kent was at centre half-back, with the two Sams (Howard and Hodder) to mind the smaller players. Patrick moved to centre half-forward, changing ruck rover. Lachie Grace was soon in to action and laid a strong tackle to lock the ball in the Roys’ forward line. There was already a growing sense of rediscovered teamwork. Charlie stormed through a pack to take a big mark and looked unstoppable. Luke was working in to space across half-back. Then Kai passed smoothly to Wiz in the middle, who found Patrick, who then kicked the ball forward where Connor worked off his opponent to trap the ball and kick the Roys’ second. It was a strong start, and with a lead of 13 points at the first change, Chris reminded the boys to maintain their intensity for another 60 minutes.

There were some strong signs at the start of the second term with the boys’ voices getting louder, calling to each other, demanding the ball, then running in waves. Wiz was having a day out in the middle and snagged a wonderful goal from the flank, near the boundary line. Moments later, he roved the crumbs and kicked his second. There were outbreaks of quality skills across the ground – a blistering handball from Jesse, Digby’s assured contested mark and goal and then Ahmed roaming the forward line, dobbing the Roys’ sixth. Jaquan won a free and sent the Roys back in to attack again and then just as Preston threatened, Sam Hooder, calm and poised, steadied the ship before the siren sounded for the main break.

It was a sizeable 40-point buffer at half-time but the boys still had some work to do. The huddled together before the game resumed, and there was plenty of noise. They were switched on. And as if to prove the point, the umpire handed Charlie the ball for a centre square infringement just as the quarter started and the resulting kick found Ahmed, who then worked it to Connor for a goal in the blink of an eye. It proved to be an indicator of the speed of the second half: the pace picked up and the game opened up too. The Bullants kicked their first to a strangely hoarse honk from a car on the outer side of the ground. The Roys though were shifting up a gear: three contested marks, one from Nix, another from Wiz, and finally from Connor, led to the skipper goalling. Then Ahmed marked and kicked a long, straight goal for the Roys’ ninth. Preston replied quickly but then Lochie B, who was outplaying his opponent, ran off his man to add another major.

It was all set-up for a barnstorming finish and the Roys didn’t disappoint. A chain of possessions from Jaqan, to Wiz, to Pat and on to Lochie, who handballed to Connor in the square nailled the Roys 11th. Then Connor returned the favour, releasing Lochie with a slick handball to give the speedster time to bounce and run in and score a goal. On the sidelines, Liz was heard to say: “Very impressive Fitzroy.” Yes, indeed. Impressive it was. Ahmed and then Mo added one more each before Preston snagged their third. Ahmed found himself in space and passed to Pat, who steadied and measured the kick so it floated over the Bullants’ defender in the square for the Roys’ 15th.  Preston added one more, then fittingly, after playing such a great role on tagging the Bullants’ No. 21, Kai drifted forward, took a great mark and kicked the goal. Yet if there was one piece of really impressive football it came in the dying minutes of the game when John defended stoutly even though the match was safe. The boys had played for each other and had played every minute of the contest. It was a sterling effort.

button Round 6 – Indigenous Round

FJFC U-15 (2) 4.5 (29) lt Doncaster Heights 15.12 (102) at Brunswick St, May 22, 2011

Footy, in case you haven’t noticed, is a game of tradition. So, it’s Indigenous Round and time to talk True Red, Black and Yellow Roy-Boy History.

Last year I spoke with you all about the special place we have at Fitzroy, where we train and play our footy, and the connection to the Traditional owners of this land and their Game. Today on behalf of our team I recognise and pay respect to the Wurundjeri Elders owners past and present and recognise the Wurundjeri people as the Traditional owners and custodians of this land where we are gathered today.

Last year I spoke about Marngrook, a game played for perhaps thousands of years (probably very close to Rammo), and I spoke about the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation, with a history exceeding 60,000 years. I talked about the laying down of layers of History.

Well, not that long ago, just 107 years and 14 days, Fitzroy Football Club became a partner in another event in history; a moment that is now celebrated nationwide each week, and especially this round of the AFL Season, the Indigenous Round of footy.

On the 7th of May 1904 Joe Johnson became the first known Aborigine to play VFL football and HE played for FITZROY. In total Joe played 55 games for Fitzroy and in his debut year he became the first ever Aboriginal player to play in a premiership side. He also played in the 1905 premiership side.

Fitzroy continued to lead the way when in 1935 another Roy Boy, Doug Nicholls in a match against WA, became the first Aboriginal player to represent the VFL.

In all, the following Indigenous players have pulled on the Maroon and The Blue, Fitzroy

Peter Bird                 (15)
Norm Byron                 (2)
Kevin Caton                (9)
Trent Cummings             (27)
Robert Cummings            (1)
Shadrach James             (18)
Chris Johnson              (59)
Joe Johnson                (55)
Dale Kickett               (15)
Ted Lovett                 (9)
Wally Matera               (32)
Doug Nicholls              (54)
Kevin Taylor               (1)

Total- 13
Total Games- 297

This medal incorporates 13 rings to pay tribute to those players; it has been made to give respect for Indigenous players in the league today and to celebrate our club. Today I want you to take the field with them in mind. I want you all to take your game today and play it in their name, in their memory; and like we do each time we train at ‘Rammo, and each time we come to this place, I want you to lay down another layer. Recognise we all are supported by what has gone before us, by what others have laid down; and today, hold firm in your hearts and minds how we all support and provide foundations for the future; ours, others, and, in these jumpers, the club.

This is the Indigenous Round so let’s be loud and proud that it all started HERE.
Amongst the Clubs and on the ground WE WILL LEAD THE WAY!

In support of the establishment of the AFL Indigenous Round, this medal has been struck to support the goals of Reconciliation through our great game of Footy. I hope that you will recall moments like these in your future. I hope that you will come to recognise the ENDURANCE, TENACITY, COURAGE, LOYALTY and PRIDE that Indigenous Australians have shown throughout their History and that you can aspire to develop and maintain the same principles.

I hope also that you will come to see that in much of our life we are connected, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians and, that through knowledge we gain understanding and through understanding, we will achieve Reconciliation.

The 2011 Indigenous Round Medal for demonstrating in the strongest way, these 5 attributes is awarded to Pat Richardson.

Phil Davis

button Round 5

FJFC U-15 (2) 4.7 (31) lt Boorondara Hawks 9.9 (63) at Brunswick St, May 15, 2011

A bit of recruiting during the past week or so meant the Roys started the post-grading season with three new players from the division four team – Jordan, John and Sam (Hodder, no relation to Max and not to be confused with the other Sam, who is a Howard). That was the upside. The downside was that Connor was still out with a foot injury and Andre broke his wrist the previous week and was probably out for seven weeks. Yet the opening quarter showed some of the Roys’ best form. There were contributors all over the ground. And importantly, the boys were making contests: Kai had a strong tackle down back, Patrick took a contested mark, Kent swooped on a ball and darted in to space and Sam Hodder rode a hip and shoulder to put Wiz in the clear.

The Hawks piled in to the forward line and managed to score a goal but soon after Wiz took a mark and goalled. It felt like there was a real competition out there. The Hawks added two more majors but the backline still help up well, battling a strong wind. John announced himself in the team with a solid mark at half-back that was typical of the boys’ defensive effort. At quarter time, just two goals separated the teams with the Roys to kick with the wind for the second term.

Immediately after the break, Charlie’s excellent ruckwork meant the Roys surged forward but it was the Hawks who actually scored first, after a kick off the ground in the goalsquare. Yet Kent, in traditional style, marked and ran on to goal for a quick reply. Then Sam Hodder ran on to a looping ball, trapped it and kicked another major for a dream start to his new team. The Roys showed some real system and a chain of possessions through the middle showed promise before the Hawks repelled it. Now under pressure, the Hawks couldn’t stifle the Roys” endeavour. The ball came in to the forward line, bouncing towards the goal square where Jaquan was on the end of it, to roost it home. Scores were level, and the Hawks attacked again for what seemed to be an inevitable goal until Luke charged at it, created the point but collected the post on the way through with his head and his knee. Perhaps he’d seen a bit too much of Alan Toovey on Friday night but he gamely tried to play on. With only a point in it at half-time, who could blame him?

In the break, Chris put Luke through a fitness test on his knee. He looked right to go with some strapping. But some of the other boys were starting to show signs of wear and tear. And there was no respite after the break when the Hawks resumed with the wind. Mu was instantly under pressure but kept his calm and started to get a bit of drive out of defence. And although the Roys had imposed a fair bit of physical pressure on the Hawks, the Roys problem was keeping clean possession, especially past the centre. Down the other end, the Hawks rattled on 3.3 to take  a 21-point lead in to the final term.

The game was still up for grabs, if the Roys used the wind and took some risks. Ahmed was shifted to full-forward and in the opening minute just couldn’t quite hang on to a mark. Diggers made some desperate tackles, flinging himself on one occasion to stop a Hawk forward. Seb too, back in the team after his hand injury, laid a copybook tackle deep in defence, but the Roys could still not find their way to goal. Laohjie was sent forward to try to create some chances. But the bench was filling up with the wounded: Mu and Nix hobbled along the boundary line and a couple of others on the field appeared to be carrying injuries. With every passing moment, the sting seemed to ebb out of the game. Fitzroy added a couple of points but the Hawks kicked a couple of goals that sealed the game. When Chris called the boys together after the siren he pointed out that the boys had only played 40 minutes, not the required 80. That was how it was on the scoreboard too – Fitzroy kicked five points in the second half to the Hawks 5.6.

button Round 4

Fitzroy U15 2 6.4 (40) d Bundoora 4.7 (31) at Telfer Reserve, Bundoora, May 7, 2011

So the Mother’s Day round and everyone was in a bit of a festive mood. Frazer joined the boys, down from the golds, Diggers was back but Connor had damaged his foot at basketball and had to miss. Seb’s hand was keeping him out for another week. Once again, the Roys were reduced to a two-person bench. But the boys are a resourceful lot. Luke showed some great poise to take a strong mark on half-back and soon after Ahmed goalled from the pocket to set the Roys on their way.

Yet for the next 10 minutes, the defenders, once again, were under the pump as Bundoora surged. Jesse took on a couple of bigger opponents and got around them, while Andre maintained his solid defensive work from last week. Bundoora managed a point and then a goal before the rain and the siren to end the first quarter arrived.

The downpour changed the game: it became all about the stoppages, a succession of ball-ups after crash-bashing and tackling. In the midst of all of this, Frazer managed to snare a ball that had spilled clear, turned, and swung the ball over his shoulder. As he fell to ground, the footy sailed through for a goal. It was inspirational stuff and the Roys took heart, pushing hard for more rewards in the forward line. Kent, as he has done often over the years, grabbed a ball from the boundary thrown-in and kicked the goal. The Roys were up by 11 points at the first change but in a blink of the resumption, Bundoora goalled to reduce the margin and raise the tension.

While the spectators headed for their cars or huddled under shelter next to the canteen, the boys pondered what they needed to do to finish in front. They had a sniff but could they go all the way this time?

Nix, who benefitted from a relayed free, calmly and purposefully slotted the answering goal minutes later. Lochie was trying to impose himself and was sure-footed through the slippery centre. When he too was given a free – and then a 15m penalty – he kicked the Roys’ fifth to give the boys what appeared to be a match-winning lead at half-time.

But the second half was a long slog. Charlie kept jumping, smothering and tapping with barely any respite all day. He kept contesting, never giving up. Across the ground, the boys found themselves under renewed pressure as Bundoora tried to come again. In a goal square scrimmage, the ever-alert Sam Howard managed to snag a goal that seemed to guarantee victory. Bundoora, though, kept burrowing in and the game shifted in a vast rolling rugby maul between the two half-forward lines.

In one desperate save, Frazer, down in defence with an injury, managed to surgically extract a ball from the gluey goal square with a chip kick off the ground that set Patrick off down the half-back line with a clearing kick to relieve the pressure. Digby made a couple of desperate defensive moves that helped delay Bundoora for precious moments. And while the rain stayed away, a chill wind started to blow and Bundoora mounted their final assault. A Bundoora mark in front of goal produced a major and tightened the nerves of every Fitzroy mother just on three-quarter time.

The final quarter was a dog-fight. The ball tumbled and rolled, skewed off boots, got stuck in packs, and was routinely claimed by the umpire for yet another ball-up. Each time it happened, the Roys soaked up more time and each time slowly lessened the pressure. Wiz kicked a point from a free but Bundoora could not conjure a goal. Al managed to show a reserve of speed asnd skill to drive the ball out of defence in the face of some constant attention. Resolute, dogged and almost exhausted the Roys hung on. Only a brave solo effort from Bundoora that resulted in a goal in the shadows of the siren reduced Fitzroy’s winning margin. And later, in the quiet of the visitors’ rooms, the Roys sang the song for the first time this season.

button Round 3

FJFC U-15 2 1.0 (6) lt Banyule 28.12 (180) at Brunswick St, May 1, 2011

Question – Who was it who said after a football match on Sunday: “It was certainly a wake-up call for the boys to understand how brutal this game is, and how quickly you have to move on.” Was it Ric? Chris perhaps? No, it was an AFL coach, a bloke called Guy McKenna, who had seen his boys at the Gold Coast Suns thumped by Essendon and realised that this week is gone and next week is all that matters.

Now, it could have felt that the Mothers Day massacre came a week early to Brunswick St in round three. Banyule won its first two games by huge amounts. They were down from the brown division and recruited five or six players from Heidelberg. It’s also Banyule’s only under-15 team. And boy, can they play: tall, strong, fast and skillful. Pretty good package really. What could the Roys do against it? Not much. In fact, not many teams can do much against that talent, fitness and desire.

Digby and Lochie were unavailable and Seb couldn’t play because he had six stitches in his hand after a woodwork accident. Kent was back for his first game of the season and the final numbers were tight. The Roys managed to get Tom and Martin Deasey from the gold teams to at least provide a bench but Martin suffered a corked thigh before half-time and took no further part. And Wiz took a stinging blow to the head early and was appropriately cautious about coming back on, especially when he still felt a bit dizzy. So there wasn’t a lot of respite out there, especially if you were a defender wearing a Fitzroy jumper.

The ball just kept getting pumped in there to Banyule’s big, strong forwards who marked and kicked with something resembling AFL finesse. The defence tried their hardest – Kai, Sam and Patrick were run ragged. Al had his hardest day at the office since he joined the club and Luke found himself facing some quick and elusive forwards. Yet the defenders kept trying. The problem was that against sides like Banyule defenders have to stay on their opponent, but it’s damn hard when your opponent is so strong and mobile.

Up until three quarter time, the Roys had only gone in to the forward 50 three times. Once, Tom had goalled, but on the other occasions, the back half was so full of Roys desperate to prevent another Banyule goal, there was no one in the Roys’ forward line to make the most of the bouncing ball.

Fitzroy trailed by a cricket score at three-quarter time but Ric urged the boys on. “Football’s a running game. So run. Run, run some more, and if you’re knackered, run some more,” he told the boys in the huddle. And the boys, with great credit, lifted their endeavour and showed some of their talent and skill, shutting down some Banyule forwards and conjuring some inspired passages of play themselves. It was not a pretty scoreboard but the last quarter revealed the boys were not going to steamrolled. And there was plenty to think about when the siren finally sounded.

button Round 2

St Marys 10. 4 (64) d Fitzroy 2 9.8 (62) at AK Line Reserve, Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bloody hard game footy. The Roys barely had a team. Mu, Mo and Al had a wedding they were missing to make sure they could take their place in the team. Guru Phil, back for his first game of the season, picked them up from the ceremony and dropped them back for the celebrations almost as soon as the siren had finished. Kent was still injured, Max was out of action, and three lads were away for the weekend. Anthony came down from the Gold to make a final team of 17. And St Marys, well St Marys, always have a red hot go. Still, the rain held off and the ground was in good condition. The boys looked a little sluggish: some of them had spent the week at school camp and they were probably still dreaming of abseiling and the Leap of Faith.

But even so, after Digby got the ball forward and a pack formed on the edge of the goalsquare, Connor grabbed the loose ball and banged it on the boot, over his head, for an exciting start to the Roys’ scoring. That was the only joy for the quarter as St Marys banged on three goals and started to look like they meant business. There were a couple of promising forward thrusts from the Roys but they couldn’t quite nail it. All the time, empty bench meant that Chris and Rick were rotating players around to help conserve energy. It was a smart tactic but could it stop the Borough?

The short answer was no, and St Marys opened the scoring in the second term with a goal. Seb took a great contested grab in the forward line but the Roys were unable to convert. The tide looked like it would turn when Connor kicked two, the first after trapping a bouncing ball and the second from a set shot that curved through the uprights. There were signs of a system but it was a little short-lived. The ball rebounded in to defence where Andre ran back in to a contest. He managed to make a great spoil and then followed up with a stunning tackle that earned him a free kick. It was tough stuff. Yet the Borough snagged a couple of majors to stretch the lead. Charlie had been strong all day, won a free and converted  to leave the Roys 11 points adrift at the main break.

It was not a happy half-time. Lochie had been given a yellow card and was off the field for 20 minutes. It was a tough penalty for a team without a bench. The coaches re-drew the line-ups and kept the backline strong. Rick spoke about the need for the boys to show some discipline. Chris urged the half-back line to become the springboard for the Roys’ attack, to become more creative.

There was an air of desperation about the game now. The Roys had to hold on against an impending St Marys onslaught. The Borough had a sniff and went in hard, with the wind at their back. They scored first before Ahmed replied for the Roys. Lochie, back on the field, was determined to make up for what had happened earlier in the game, and after a string of free kicks moved the ball from the Roys’ defence to the forward line, Lochie managed to kick the goal to narrow the gap. But St Marys kept coming, and swept the ball back downfield to add another two goals. The Roys tried to hit back: Patrick and Luke had pushed forward and kept driving the ball deep in to attack, only to find the wind cruelly holding the ball up.

The one comfort for the Roys was the wind had picked up for the final term, and the 17-point deficit did not look remote. And then after St Marys scored a goal a Roys’ comeback seemed a fading hope. But these boys don’t give up easily. Anthony was fierce around the ball and Jesse, finding himself in a new role in the middle, was helping Charlie get the ball  in to the corridor. Connor dobbed a point and then Charlie won a free that he laid off to Ahmed, who goalled. With 14 minutes left, the margin was back to 17 points. The boys were coming. Connor was marking everything that came his way but he couldn’t quite find his accuracy. Then, after a swift ball movement from the middle, he marked and goalled. The momentum was all with the Roys and although they were almost spent, their pressure was terrific. Not once did the ball cross the centre line and enter St Marys’ forward 50. The pressure mounted and then a flurry of points  showed that it wasn’t going to be the Roys’ day. Another minute might have done it. Who would know? Just like last week, the Roys won the final quarter, but the effort required was just a little too much in the end. Yet it was cracking game from a team without a bench.

button Round 1

Fitzroy U-15 2 7.5 (47) lt to Whitehorse Colts 19.10 (124) Brunswick St, April 2, 2011

So here we go: a new season, a new division – from blue to green but because we’re all a bit older, it’s division three, not division four. And the boys are bigger and stronger, although there’s been an interrupted pre-season with cricket going on and on – among other things – and their fitness is not quite there.

Six months can do a lot to a teenager. And the memories of premierships get filed away in the back of the mind. Chris and Rick are still about though, and now they’re running the show: a couple of Pie-men with the big flag in their kit bag. But this one’s a challenge. There are a few boys missing for the first game of the season. Kent has done a shoulder and the bench is wafer-thin. Just two bodies to choose from.

The visitors have come down from the old Brown division where they struggled to win a game. Yet they set the early pace of the contest. They have a bit of run and kick to position. The Roys look pretty rusty.

Chris has opted for a similar spine to last season and it’s easy to spot who’s doing what. There are glimpses of last year’s slick ball movement from half-back but the ball keeps rebounding and the pressure builds. As the quarter wears on, the Colts start to asset themselves, slamming on six goals while Wiz dobs the Roys’ only answer. Chris lets the defenders know that it was one of the worst quarters he’s seen in a while, but gives everyone a bit of hope that the three-goal wind will be to the Roys’ advantage in the second quarter.

But the wind doesn’t help. The Colts are dominating around the ground: they are quicker, more decisive and more physical. Ahmed takes a turn in the ruck to relieve Charlie but the Colts midfield still manages to get the ball out the centre. At half-time, the margin is 66 points. At three quarter time, it has blown out to 100 points. The Roys have no consistent winners but Luke, who has shown determination and strength in defence, has done well and Patrick, down at centre half-back, has taken a series of marks. Charlie has contested hard in the ruck and Jesse has relished getting in to the clinches.

In the last quarter though the boys show a bit of system and some form: Ahmed goals from a free in the pocket and adds another two shortly after. Sam scouts and goals, Mu grabs another and Connor helps clear the road for Kai to kick one. The Roys easily win the final quarter and can hold their heads up as they walk off, a little sore and disappointed, when the siren sounds.

Nick Richardson

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