Footy is a tough game, and an even tougher game to lose. When young men put their bodies on the line every week – unlike AFL players on mega-salaries and with access to the best medical treatment – they do it for the love of the game and the enjoyment they get playing with their mates. As Barry Dickens (metaphorically quoting Butch Gale) once put it: ?In the end men will only go in for their friends. To an extent, they?ll do it for dough, but its not the same as mates. Mates is what football is all about, you see. Gee, I?ve made a million of ?em!?
This week, the culmination of a tough season would be fought out in a Semi Final between two emerging rivals: Rovers and Salesian Scorpions.
Salesian won the toss and kicked with a four goal wind advantage. It was hot and windy, and the centre square was rock hard. Rovers got the first goal into the wind in the opening minutes through some great play by Semmel, Zampaglione and Skewes. In a tight opening quarter Rovers played well managing to kick three goals and be only 12 points down at quarter time. In a game that would feature great spurts in play, Salesian appeared to seal their fortunes early with three quick goals straight after the first break. Rovers looked shell-shocked, but as they have done all season, they persisted and showed great belief in themselves and the team to fight their way back into the game. Ross, Corbett and Fallon kicked goals in a see-sawing struggle to bring Rovers to within 16 points at half-time.
Going into the third quarter Rovers needed quick early goals, but scored only one for the quarter thanks to a ferocious Kettle tackle. Uncharacteristically Rovers over-possessed the ball, possibly to combat kicking into the gusty wind. Players like Ross and Schafer were noticeable for their composure under-pressure as a few of their team-mates seemed to lose theirs.
Rovers had the difficult but not impossible task of overcoming a six goal lead in the final quarter. Rovers players were only too aware of Salesians failure to run-out matches, having almost snatched a win in their last encounter. The team were asked to play attacking, creative footy in the last.
Rovers played what would be their last quarter for the year with guts and determination – they threw caution to the wind in a bid to create. In a memorable six goal last quarter Rovers refused to give-in and pegged the margin, at one stage, back to within three goals. Rovers weren?t going to die wondering that was for sure – trouble was Salesian also scored five goals into the wind.
Rootsey had one of his best games for the season, as did Kettle. Sharpe, battered and bruised, was aggressive in the ruck, while Semmel, Zampaglione and Skewes featured in the best players – as they have done all year. And there were many more, Westhead, O?Brien, White and McDonald, amongst others, who worked hard and battled the game out courageously.
It has probably become a feature of this years U/19s that they play their footy hard and tough, but fair. They may not be the most talented team, but you can rely on most of them to put their head over the ball and give their all. In the end that is all you can ask of players and just hope that they enjoyed their footy as much as I know their supporters enjoyed watching them play and I enjoyed writing about them.
Goals: Skewes (3), White (2), Corbett, Fallon, Hendry, O?Brien, Rootsey, Ross, Semmel, Zampaglione.
Best: Skewes, Semmel, Zampaglione, Ross, Schafer, Rootsey, Sharpe, McDonald, O?Brien, Westhead, Lang, Kettle.
Scores: Salesian Scorpions def.
4. 8. (32) 3. 2. (20)
8. 11. (59) 6. 7. (43)
12. 17. (89) 7. 10. (52)
17. 20. (122) 13. 16. (94)
By Natalie O’Brien