From the top of the ladder to the bottom, the Under 14 Central Highland season has been one of change according to the coaches.
In top spot on the ladder, Emerald Brothers White coach Jim Fabish has experienced an unblemished season. “We started with a group of boys, and ended with a team of footballers.” Fabish said. Even with the luxury of five representative footballers, Fabish said the players’ ability to come together as a team was a highlight. Despite his charges being undefeated all year, coach Fabish was quick to commend the competition. “The season has not been easy, and the competition is very strong. There are some very good players out there.” Fabish said he was appreciative of his team of helpers – Darren Piscioneri, Peter Dowling, Justin Howard and Zac Costar. “They are a huge part of this team, and have been for the past four or five years.” Of the finals, Fabish believes Middlemount will be the biggest threat. “They have continued to improve all season.”
The Emerald Brothers Blue team are in second spot on the ladder and coach Steve Pyle has been pretty happy with the season so far. “We had big numbers to start with, but injuries have played their part.” Pyle said the team was disappointed with their loss last weekend as they hoped to carry some winning momentum into the finals series. Players to have stood up throughout the season included Michael Franke, Tristan Browne, Harry Hooper, Alex Parker and Brayden Turner. “These boys are the older boys in the team and have been consistent week in and week out.” Pyle has also received good support from parents including Eddie Ross, Nicole Verzeletti, Darren Franke, Clay Browne, Heath Parker and Mardi Parker. Brothers White will definitely be the team to beat in the finals according to Pyle. “They will be hard to beat, but we are looking forward to the semis. Anything can happen.”
Emerald Tigers Coach, Craig Firth has been happy with the season so far. “We have had a pretty good year.” However, a run of injuries through the middle of the season has made the end of the season tough for his young charges. Firth commended Mitch Hayward playing at centre for the Tigers. “Mitch is one of the top point scorers in the Central Highlands this year.” Paul Cavanagh also earned his coach’s praise. “He has played exceptionally well.” Dylan Rowe took on the captaincy from Jacob Firth, when he broke his arm, and the coach was impressed with his leadership skills. “When Jacob came back, he took on the role of leading the backs, while Dylan organised the forwards.” There were plenty of volunteers willing to help out with the team as well. “Clinton Cave, Brenton Rowe, Ray Corkill and Collette Campbell have all put a lot of effort into the team this year.” Firth thinks defeating Brothers White will be the biggest challenge in the finals series. “They are a very strong side.”
For Middlemount/Dysart coach, Damian Cavanagh, the highlight of the season was the decision by the parents in both Middlemount and Dysart to combine the teams to ensure the boys got a chance to play in 2014. “At the start of the year, both clubs were really short on numbers. The decision to join the clubs was not easy, but the result has been great. They are all enjoying coming together and playing as a team.” As a group, this will be their first time to feature in a final series, and would not have been something the boys would have experienced if the two clubs had not decided to merge, according to Cavanagh. “It’s been great to see the improvement in their skills, and to see them gel together as a team.”
Cavanagh was also impressed with his volunteer helpers – “Josh Larson coaches them in Dysart, Jackie Kalinowsky brings them across to Middlemount from Dysart for training, and Jason Randell coaches the boys in Middlemount when I am not available. They have all been a huge part of our team.” But his biggest praise is for the parents, who ultimately allowed the two teams to combine.
Ziggy Gounder, coach of the Under 14 Peak Downs Pirates, was impressed with the efforts from his players despite being out of the top four. “We had a few new kids, and some had come back to the game after being away for a few years.” But it was the kids from Longreach boosting numbers who really helped turned things around for the Pirates. “They are like our family. They don’t get to train with the other kids, but come game day, they just fit in with everyone.” Gounder, said the improvement every week has impressed him. “That’s all you can ask for.” Cody Scarlett, playing his first year of league, looks like he has always played football, according to the coach, while Mitchell Allen as captain has always stood up. Gounder also acknowledged the parent helpers he has relied on throughout the year, in particular Birdy, Sibby, Brad Hargraves, Geoff Bradshaw, assistant coach James Beames and Craig Ainsworth.
Back in Clermont, and coach Dean Coghill was very appreciative of his players. “A big thanks to the boys. They always gave 110%.” Coghill said the season was pretty good considering the size of his team. “We had a fairly small team, but their determination and never give up attitude was impressive.” Coghill thanked player Gerard Moriarty for his efforts. “Ged was always a big help with training.” Parent helpers to be thanked included Mick Priestley, Bruce Moriarty, BC Bekker, Liz Slattery, Sarah Nunan, and his wonderful wife, Kerriann Coghill. “A big thankyou also to the club for their support throughout the year and to the parents.” Coghill thinks Brothers White will be the team to beat. “They are a very disciplined side and you can see that on the field, plus they are a team with size on their side.”
The Blackwater Crushers round out the Under 14 ladder, and while their season may not be what they planned, there were still plenty of highlights for Coach Patty Rogers. “We had a handful of players selected for Central Highland representative duties, and Jarred Grant selected for Capras Under 13s. This was a real positive for Blackwater.” Rogers said the players were fantastic to coach. “The whole team was fantastic. Well mannered, great bunch of kids.” Rogers said all the players were good mates, and he credits the club policy of working with the schools as being helpful. “If they get in trouble at school, they can’t play footy. It helps them stay focussed.” Rogers had a handful of parent helpers who had helped over the season and he was appreciative of their efforts. Michelle Rogers, Patty’s wife, also was thanked for her efforts as FAO. Rogers also praised Damian Cavanagh and Justin Howard who coached the Under 13 Central Highlands representative team. “I learnt a lot from being involved with them.”
While Blackwater may be last on the ladder in the Under 14s, it is their coach who has managed to sum up the feelings of all the Under 14 coaches across the Highlands with these words. “I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them get taller, leaner, and learn not only how to play the game, but understand it.”