Next generation ready to roll

Players in the Smithton Saints U/17 side work on their skills in training ahead of the NWJFL lightning premiership in Penguin next weekend. Picture: Bodey Dittloff.

Juniors. A strong focus has been placed back on developing young players at the Van Diemen’s Land Smithton Saints, as the new U/14 and U/17 teams prepare for their introduction into the North West Junior Football League in 2014.

Following a two-year gap of having no junior sides entered into the league, the Saints made the announcement earlier this year in an attempt to follow suit with other sides in the NTFL having a similar setup.

With a lightning premiership in Penguin kicking off the NWJFL season next weekend, U/17 coach Kelvin Popowski said he has been impressed with the response in numbers and by his young squads’ dedication to training.

“At the moment, I couldn’t fault the boys’ intensity and enthusiasm – it’s infectious,” he said.

“It’s all about them improving. I just want them to be competitive and get some enjoyment out of their footy.”

Having coached junior sides previously for Scotchtown, Popowski said his age bracket was an important step in learning more about tactics and the way the game is played.

“I’ve started to teach them a few game styles and game plans,” he added. “It’ll get them to start thinking a bit more about why we do things.”

U/14 co-coach Jarrod Watling, who shares the responsibilities with Rhys King, emphasised the club held a long-term vision for the development of their younger teams.

“It’s going to be a three to four year project,” Watling said, adding it would “get a lot more people around the club”.

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