With a bye in the Circular Head Football Association, the Chronicle takes a look at the state of junior football in the region.
Forest Stanley Demons
The Under 14 side started the season in blistering form before injuries to key players slowed down proceedings.
Lucas Lardner has showcased silky skills and strong run and carry throughout the season while Jesse Haywood is a natural leader, according to coach Matthew Lardner.
Bronson Sutton-Collins was also in strong form before suffering a knee injury.
In his third year as coach, Lardner says he is happy with the season so far and the focus now is on improving communication ahead of finals.
“The aim is to reach the Grand Final, there’s nothing better in footy than pulling on a jumper to play a Grand Final.”
On the other hand, the Under 17 side has struggled to put up strong numbers and so wins have been hard to come by. With a lack of older players, the side has utilised Under 14 players, doubling up to play two games.
That being said, coach Daryl Pearce is impressed by the work rate of all players.
“We’ve exceeded my expectations this year,” he says.
“We struggled preseason and didn’t have any wins on the radar. [But now] the focus has been on development.”
The Under 14 side’s lack of experience was evident at the start of the season, after suffering a nine-game drought.
However as the youngest side in the competition, the Canaries have come a long way since then and are now playing an attractive brand of footy with renewed confidence.
Nathan Turner and Leahna McLaren have shown the greatest improvement, with Zack Littlejohn also coming a long way in his first year of football.
Caleb Bercheree, Mason Howard and Chad Dillon have shown consistency for the Canaries while Nash Walker is one to watch in the future and Jaxon Swan has been in ripper form.
With two wins on the trot, the Canaries will hope to pull off some upsets in the finals to see how far they can take their newfound form.
In the Under 17 team, numbers were a point of concern for co-coach Anthony McAlister.
“It’s hard for us to get a decent run at it when we’re asking so many kids to play back to back games,” says McAlister.
“We put our older boys in the centre of the ground to start off with, but then we can’t take them off or move them because the rest of the side is so young.”
Despite a lack of numbers, McAlister commended Jake Russell, Tanan Grey, Ryan Keep, Morgan Grey, Tyler Young and Taylor Woulleman for their consistency and commitment this year.
The season looked dire early on for the Redpa Redlegs’ Under 14 side with 10 players graduating to the Under 17 team.
The addition of a few new players and some experienced bodies has helped the Redlegs to maintain their form to put eight wins on the board this year.
Marty Sheehan, Jack Smith, Jamisen Sheehan, Tarj Willie, Malachi Sheehan and Ella Moody have all enjoyed dominant seasons.
Michael Innes-Smith is tearing it up too, having been selected to captain the North West Under 12 team.
In the Under 17 action, first time coach Steven Poulter has adapted to life at the head of a football team.
“We’re working on stringing four quarters together, we haven’t been able to do that yet this year,” says Poulter.
“Developing consistency is my main goal heading into finals.”
Poulter is impressed by Ftsum Heres’ development this year, as well as Josh Coates and Logan Horton’s skills and level heads. He praised Ricky Quillerat for his contagious enthusiasm and adaptability.
“I’m grateful for the players’ work ethic this year, it keeps me motivated and it’s good to see kids loving playing footy.”
Under 14 coach Sam Brookes has been thoroughly impressed with the effort his side has put in so far.
“The kids have done everything I’ve asked and more this year – they’ve made the club really proud,” he says.
Heading into finals his biggest concern is inconsistency in communication around the ground.
“Sometimes when it’s wet and cold our heads drop a bit, I want us to have a strong voice regardless of the weather.”
He was grateful for the sheer numbers around the club and the desire of all players to play good footy.
Young ruckman Xavier Heald received a glowing review for his good ball use and game sense. Brookes praised Brandon Woolley for putting his head over the footy, while Harry Rushworth also got a mention for his ability to read the ball from the backline.
Under 17 co-coach Jamie Imer says that his side is also performing ahead of expectations this year.
Imer highlighted emerging superstar Brandon Stokes as one of the most prominent players in the side. Stokes routinely plays in both the Under 17 and Seniors sides, cleaning up bags of goals and best player honours in both teams on some occasions.
Woolley also received a mention, commended for his maturity having taken the captaincy throughout the season, alongside former Circular Head Giant Mia Pay who stands out amongst the side.
Imer is excited about Ben Pinner’s future, impressed with his work down back.
Alongside co-coach Mitchell Scolyer, Imer has put the focus on helping players to enjoy their footy at the club this year.
“We’ve had a good season, but it’s a shame that some of the association’s strongest players can’t take their footy to the next level,” says Imer.
“These kids deserve recognition, they’re missing the representative side.”
In the last round of the CHFA home and away season, Scotchtown host Forest Stanley and Irishtown takes on Redpa.