Rovers lead St Leonard’s to Premiership

Back on 24th August, several Hampton Rovers players played a key role in St Leonard’s Grand Final win over St Michael’s Grammar at Trevor Barker Oval in Sandringham.

While the Rovers don’t have an official school feeder like other local VAFA sides, the connection between the Club and St Leonard’s has grown stronger in recent years with many current and former players having attended the school.

St Leonard’s play their home matches at Hampton Rovers’ Boss James Reserve and on Wednesday 24th August, were looking to break their long Senior Premiership drought.

Rovers players accounted for more than a third of the Premiership team with eight players lining up who played in our U19s or Seniors this year and the side was captained by Finn Garraway-McMaster.

The playing group prepared for what would be the biggest game in recent St Leonard’s football history; the 2016 ACS 1st XVIII Grand Final Vs St Michael’s Grammar. The game started off slowly for the Saints, but as time went on, the boys gained momentum and started to build on their game, capitalising on the inaccurate kicking by the opposition.

The boys went into the final quarter with the momentum, leading by 15 points. It was an arm wrestle with the St Michael’s boys in that final quarter, who refused to lie down, raising the intensity of the game yet again. However, once more, St Leonard’s took their chances when they arose, and were able to nullify much of St Michael’s possession with desperate defending and pressure acts.

The game came down to the wire, with a goal from St Michael’s with 20 seconds remaining on the clock, putting them within two points. Fortunately for the mighty Sainters, there wasn’t enough time for St Michael’s to launch any further attacks, and St Leonard’s were able to hold on to deliver the school their first 1st XVIII premiership in nine years.

ST LEONARD’S  9.8 (62)
7.18 (60)
Best Players: Andrew Woolston (HR), James Van Oosten, Finn McMaster (HR), Tanner Ellis, Ben Kneebush (HR), Will Jackson (HR)

Great to see the following Hampton Rovers players, who all pulled on the boots in our seniors or Under 19s this year, prominent:

  • Andrew Woolston who put in a best-on-ground performance, kicking two goals and playing a pivotal high half forward/wing role;
  • Ben Kneebush was a solid wall down back repelling everything that came his way;
  • Dan Terjung worked all day winning the hard ball and providing run and carry when needed, laying hard tackles and making the opposition earn the ball;
  • Benji Audige dominated in the ruck, didn’t lose a tap all year;
  • Will Jackson supported Ben Kneebush in the backline providing run and carry off half back, and providing many attacking opportunities;
  • Tom Harris played a hard inside midfield role, laying hard tackles and making the opposition earn it;
  • Joel Bowditch returned from injury and provided elite outside run and carry with great marking ability off the halfback line;
  • Finn Garraway-McMaster, the skipper, continued to provide the drive he had all year and led the team to Premiership success.

The Hampton Rovers boys were the backbone of the 1st XVIII premiership team, and provided the drive needed for a winning team.

Great to hear that there will be an influx of St Leonard’s boys to play at Hampton Rovers in 2017. As well as those mentioned above, others are set to line up in the green & gold to provide more talent to the under 19 and seniors teams. The club has a goal of fielding two Under 19s teams in the coming years.

The likes of Jesse Lovig, Brendan Culvenor, Jack Baxter, Tom Youl and of course current seniors’ star Richard Atkins all featured in 2007 and went on to win the VAFA U19 flag in 2009. Let’s hope history repeats itself!

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