Written by Tom Barca (MJFC Hall of Fame Member, and 2019 Under 13 Premiership Coach)
The ultimate glory was three years in the making. I took over as coach for the start of the 2017 season. Peter Merory, the previous coach, had already laid the foundations for this team, and it struck me straight away the bond this team had. A close knit team that stuck together through thick and thin. Peter stayed on as my assistant, which helped me to get to know more about the players, their strengths, weaknesses, personalities and their approach to the team and game. This has been an enormous help and I thank Peter very much for making my job easier and it helped to fast track the team.
2017 was a feeling out year, to see how the players played as a team, and for me to get to know their capabilities. We struggled through the season only winning a couple of games, and always short on numbers, but what I did like, was the never give up attitude.
2018 I knew more about the boys and decided on the game style I thought suited them, and one that would be competitive against other sides. My goal for the boys was to be consistent and win more games than the previous year, and then challenge to play finals in 2019. The boys were insistent that they wanted to play finals this year, and so I readjusted that goal for them. They did make finals, which was an epic achievement, and to win their first final in which they debuted in was fantastic for their confidence. We did bow out in the preliminary final, but not before we took the game up to the opposition for half the game. A successful year in the overall improvement of the team.
2019 we got off to a bad start by losing the first game of the season to a side we should’ve beaten, plus it was at home. I told the boys overconfidence was the reason they lost. They never took a game lightly for the rest of the season from that moment on! We did not lose again until the middle of the season. With that, we lost top spot on the ladder. The new top team had only lost two games for the season, both of those to us. Neither of these two teams would lose another game for the rest of the year.
We knew a few games out that we couldn’t finish lower than second, so the challenge was put to the boys to finish top, as we thought that why should a team finish above us when we’re the only team they hadn’t beaten. I used this as motivation, so as the boys had a mini goal to play for, and that way, I could keep them focused. We finally took top spot in the last round. First goal complete!!
Now the finals. I told the boys that finals was a new season, and that the team that played best over three weeks, would be winners. What happened during year was winning enough games to qualify and now it was a fresh start.
Our opponents in the second semifinal, had a plan to negate one of our better players, and it worked. I also tried something different at the start of the game, which cost us two goals in as many minutes. We ultimately went down by 8pts, and as I said to the boys after the game, it was my fault. You could see they were visible upset about losing. I decided then, that there was going to be no negativity in our remaining quest. I told them that we had to win one game to qualify for a grand final, and that losing today hadn’t changed anything, we still had to win one game!
From then on, everything said had to be positive, no matter what. I needed to make sure there was no pressure on them.
The following week in the preliminary final, the boys played their most consistent game of the year, couldn’t have come at a better time, and we had a very good win, to set up a rematch in the grand final. Second goal complete!
We had an easy training night leading into the grand final, just so I could keep them relaxed. I told them the reason they made the grand final was because of the way they played during the year, so, there was no need to play any different just because of the occasion of the day. Deep down, I knew that teaching them to play a hard, manic, contested game was going to hold us in good stead.
I wrote a few things on the whiteboard and spoke to them quietly about what they had already achieved and how proud the club was of them, how proud their parents were of them, and how proud I was of them already, regardless of the day’s outcome. If they stuck to what they’ve done all year, then they could be even prouder of themselves and everything they’ve achieved by getting here. It was a three-year journey, not just a one off season.
The game itself was two halves of polar opposites. First half in dry conditions, the second in torrential rain. We kicked against the wind in the first quarter. Hawthorn got an early goal, but it was a congested start with a lot of miskicks and the wind playing havoc. We got a goal back, then it was played mainly between the arcs with both teams struggling to go deep. The last few minutes, it broke open and we had two quick goals kicked against us. At the first break, we were down 3 goals to 1, which was a handy lead for the opposition.
In the second quarter, it was our turn with the wind. We began to get the ball out of the centre repeatedly and went deep into our forward line for most of the quarter. We moved the ball a lot more fluently and our teamwork was starting to get us on top. We scored 2 goals to 0, and went in at halftime 3 goals each, just trailing by a few points.
During halftime, the heavens opened up and it was going to be a hard slog for the rest of the game. We faced torrential rain and a strong wind going against us. It was a struggle for most of the term until we broke the ice and kicked a goal against the flow of play to level the scores. That was the closest we’d been all game. The boys were up and about and feeling good, only to have a goal kicked the other way within two minutes. For the rest of the quarter, we defended bravely, rushing through behinds and then trying to clear the ball out, only to see it come back time and again. The pleasing part of the quarter was that we kept them from scoring goals, as it was one goal each for the term. This was a great effort against the wind. 3/4 time we were down 4-6 to 4-2.
As I told the boys at the break, we held them well in that quarter and set ourselves up to come home with the wind. The game was in our hands now. The last quarter was played 90% deep in our forward line, but couldn’t get clean possession because of the conditions and the fact that the opposition decided to defend a lead of four points by having their whole team in our forward line. Risky ploy, but looked like it was going to work. Our boys just persevered relentlessly and wouldn’t give up, and as it worked out, we got possession and space opened up in the hot spot, where the ball ended up kicked to, with a precision kick, and one of our players leading out to the perfect spot.
Only twenty seconds to go, we knew this would be the last kick of the game. Miss it and we would’ve been saying wonder if… Kick it and it’ll be the first time we hit the front for the day.
Oscar, with ball in hand, went back calmly and kicked the ball through the centre just as the siren sounded !!! Is there a better way to win! Third goal accomplished.
The scenes were amazing. To see the joy on these boy’s faces. 5-4-34 to 4-6-30. YJFL Under 13 Premiers 2019!!!
It wasn’t just that once in a lifetime goal that won the game, or the Harry Foreman goal of the year against the wind in the third quarter. It was a collective team effort in keeping the opposition goalless in the second and last quarter, the fact we scored goals in every quarter. The willingness to fight tooth and nail for every contest. The trust in each other to do their bit when the heat was on. The courage, determination, and desire, BUT, where this game was won, was at the start of the journey back in 2017. That’s when the boys went on a road of learning to believe, trust, and be confident in where the road was leading. Most of the time, we struggled for numbers, and if it wasn’t for the underage boys that helped us field a team, this glory would never have been reached.
This was truly a club effort, not just a team effort. Especially when we had parents dig in week in week out to take on tasks so the boys could run out and play. Best team manager, Narelle, great runner, Phil Smith, and trainer, Scott Taylor. This win was a journey for everyone!!!
Below is the message on the whiteboard before the game, and the pre-match address:
We Will NOT be Stopped
Be Motivated by Love of the game, Love of your teammates, Love of the Club
Small efforts repeated over and over
Inspire each other
Have belief for 4 quarters
Never give up- push yourself
The only limit is YOU
When you step out on the field today, everyone is Equal.
Talent is only a small percentage of the game today. If you show more Heart, Focus, Desire, Hunger, Guts and Determination, no one can stop you.
Stand up TODAY
Make TODAY count !
Leave everything out on the field.
Make them remember the day they played MACLEOD.
Make them scared, make them remember who you are.
Every Tackle, every contest, every shot, bump and pass, make it Count.
You decide the outcome Today, no one else.
If you get knocked down, Get Up
If you feel Pain, there IS no pain.
The only pain today, is the pain YOU inflict !
You will Not be defeated TODAY.
If they’re tough, you be tougher.
TODAY we make it count
TODAY we set the tone
The tone of a team that will NOT be defeated.
Be a warrior, a beast. Then they will have no choice but to give up, because you WON’T.
Fight with every fibre in your body to WIN.
Every tackle,contest,shot,pass,bump, make it COUNT TODAY !!!
Take the game on as a team, don’t panic,do your best, and enjoy the game
5 Lachlan Fraser
17 Archie Mansfield
9 Lachlan Merory
13 Harry Foreman
23 Chase Mclauchlan
24 Joshua Bennett
11 Dylan Starmans
29 Oskar Silfverberg
1 Thomas Lazzaro
36 Lachlan Hegeman
14 Charlie Pereira
2 Hani Talarico
20 Kaelan Smith
16 Nikolas Birch
3 Cooper Thompson
21 James Taylor-Nash
10 Earl Dicesare
15 Julian Smith
25 Jamie Gioskos
37 Matthew Maure
And every other u/age player that helped make up our team.