The business end of the season is almost upon the Central Highland Junior Rugby League competition, and the spotlight is right on the teams competing for a chance to play in the final series. The focus for the CH wrap up this week will be the teams in the Under 12 competition.
Sitting on top of the ladder at this point in time is the Springsure Mountain Men Under 12. Coach Warren Sullivan said the overall consistency showed by his team has paid off. “We do have a couple of representative players, Jackson Taylor and Joseph Fletcher, but really the rest are pretty reliable and have combined well this year to consistently be competitive.” Sullivan was also impressed with the number of parent volunteers who have contributed throughout the year. There were a couple however who deserved special mention. “Jock McCabe has assisted with the coaching all year, and Rob Walters has run the water every week.” Springsure are set to host the second semi, however Coach Sullivan hopes that there might be a chance they will get to sit on the sidelines during the second semi and watch their grand final opponents. “They will be in the hunt if they play like they have all year.”
First year coach, Michael Heinemann from the second place Emerald Brothers Under 12 side has enjoyed watching his charges grow with confidence throughout the season. “The highlight has definitely been the development of the players.” And while all the players have come a long way according to Heinemann, it is Adam Twaddle, Trey Mitchell and Jackson Cheesmen who have shown the most improvement. Heinemann also made special mention of his parent helpers. “Sally Hall, our FAO, Brad Comiskey and Ray Mitchell as league safe runners and my co-coach Brendan Rouse have all been fantastic.” Springsure and Tigers will take some beating in the final series according to Heinemann.
Emerald Tigers Green sit in third position and their coach Tony Bean was full of praise for his team. “They are not a big team, but each week they get out there, enjoy what they are doing and try their best.” He mentioned that some of his charges have never played footy before, but have learnt a lot from the more experienced players and grown as individuals. “The teamwork on the field has improved greatly.” One of the reasons Bean gives for the improvement in the players is the ‘good bunch of people’ who he has relied on throughout the year. “We have a couple of really reliable Dads help out who are good with kids, and the kids have responded really well. This has had a really positive effect on the team throughout the season.”
The Dysart Bulls coach Zane Madden has enjoyed watching his players mesh as a team. “They are starting to look like a well drilled football team. The back line move the ball around well, and the forwards are running hard.” Madden did not single any players out for special mention preferring to focus on the improved teamwork. “They play as a team, train as a team and they have grown over the year and become more mature footballers.” A couple of volunteers however deserve accolades according to Madden. “Jason ‘Buddha’ Caddies referees for the club, and is the vice president. He always comes and helps out at training. Jessika Madden and Jason Fletcher have run the water for the team all year, and the co-coach Ty Franklin is on opposite shift to me, so we always have someone running the kids at training.”
With only two rounds to go, and only one point behind the Dysart Bulls sits the Emerald Tigers Black. Coach Mick Barnes said of his charges, that they all showed improved skills and enjoy playing together. “It’s a credit to the boys. They are all positive on the field, and there has never been any misbehaviour. They all have a positive attitude to training, and show excellent ball skills.” Barnes said he was pleased to see Brett Perkins and Coby Williamson selected for the Capricornia team – a reward for the commitment to their own skill development. Barnes said he had a ‘heap of parents’ step up and help, but wanted to make special mention of the executive committee. “They have really looked after the club and managed all the volunteers well.”
The Clermont Bears Under 12s in equal fifth spot have had an “up and down season’ according to coach, Aaron Keune. However, there have been positives. “The players have developed their footy skills, and this has been good to watch over the year. When the team clicks they play very entertaining football.” Keune was particularly impressed with the younger players who have stepped up. “Patty Mohr has always given his best, and it has been great to see the growing confidence in Tyler Sutton. He has really stepped up and developed as a rugby league player.” Jo Callanan and Josh Marks also deserved special mention, and Keune was particularly impressed with Josh’s twin sister, Cassie. “It is great to be able to have Cassie playing. She is doing so well in developing her young footy career.” Keune has gathered a reliable team of helpers. “Mitch Albert always assists with coaching duties when I’m working; Damian Abbott, Nathan Turpie and Peter Francis always put their hand up to help out as well.”
The Peak Downs Pirates sit in seventh spot, however their coach, Todd Johnson has been impressed with how even the competition has been across the board. “It has been a very equal competition in this age group.” Johnson said his players had shown some improvement, but were a bit ‘on and off’. “When they click, they are unbelievable.” The players, however, have all had fun according to Johnson, and he has had no issues with any parents or supporters. Volunteers within the club who have made Johnson’s role easier include Dan Allen. “He has helped all year, and with all age groups.” Jason Finch also deserved special mention. “He is on opposite shift to me, so helps out at coaching when I’m at work and is our league safe runner. Tony & Leanne Wardle, and Tiesha Allen have done a lot for the club.” Tash Ling however, as team manager earned the most praise. “She went over and above what was required and made my job so much easier.”
In eighth spot sits the Blackwater Crushers. After setting a goal at the start of the year to see every player advance and improve as a footballer, Coach Jeff "Brassy" Ingram said “they can honestly say that we have achieved this. Players are now showing skills in games that we thought would never have happened this season.” Despite a couple of big losses at the start of the season to the front runners of the competition, the side started playing their best footy following their involvement in the Laurie Spina and Jason Hetherington competitions. Ingram said the majority of the players are only 11 years old. “If they stay together and keep playing they should go alright next year.” On a different note, Ingram added, “Our team would like to thank all the Highland referees and officials. Personally I would like to thank Matt Madsen, Brad Gorman and Shane Shoesmith who have all equally shared the coaching role throughout the season and a special thanks to our FAO and Trip organiser Nat Waters who has worked tirelessly for the under 12's this year.”
Middlemount coach Scott Peters said the season had been very tough for the Under 12 Panthers. “We only have small numbers and most of our team are young. We have lost players through injury, and players leaving town.” Despite this, they played their best game last weekend, when they comprehensively defeated the Dysart Bulls who are in fourth spot. “There has been a lot of improvement across the field and some really good footy played.” Peters said the ‘kids are great.’ “They turn up for training every week, and are all keen.” Peters was quick to thank his co-coach, Kylie Barber. “Kylie runs them at training, and we would have been lost without her.” Mark Schottelius, Craig Wight, Scott Phillis, Justine Heke and Matt Barber were also invaluable to the team throughout the season.
Finally, the Gemfield Giants round off the Under 12 competition, and while they might be at the bottom of the league ladder, coach Greg Spencer has found plenty of positives from the season. “We have had limited numbers, but this has meant the players are getting a whole lot more game time on the field.” The Gemfields have struggled with numbers, and have relied on their Under 10s to play up to make numbers. Spencer made mention of a family from Emerald who have a child playing for the Gemmies. “They were impressed with the amount of game time their child has had because of the lower team numbers.” And because of the additional game time each player gets, the player development has improved throughout the season. “Brandon Cavanagh has grown up a lot and made rep teams this year. He is a big strong kid, and really has his head in the game. James Spencer has put in 100% all year, and Travis Oats has really improved. Daniel Adams hung back a bit last year, but has met all the challenges we have thrown at him this year.” Off the field, Spencer made particular mention of John White and Darren McCloud who have assisted him all year.
Regardless of the position on the ladder, it’s been a great season for the Under 12s across the Highlands, and the continued development of the players is something to look forward to in the future. The QRL thank all the coaches for their contribution...the time and effort they give to the development of Rugby League in the Highlands is greatly appreciated.