The finest of the Southern Football Netball League’s Under 19s trekked down to the Marriott Waters Reserve in Lyndhurst on Saturday where they met the best of the Central Highlands Football League. Both teams may have come from completely different corners of the state, but they shared one common goal – the Interleague crown.
In almost perfect conditions, the stage was well and truly set for a showcase of the best that both leagues had to offer, and also provided a chance for players to prove themselves as serious contenders for senior football in future years.
Southern had an impressive cross-representation of talent featured in their Under 19s side, with players from ten out of 13 sides in the competition selected. The team, hand-picked by coach Nathan Harris, proved to be a true reflection of the strong competition featured across the board in this season’s Under 19s division. Bentleigh’s Jayce Morgan carried the honour of captaining the side, followed closely by vice-captain Dino Karamoshos from St Pauls.
In the first term, teams were challenged to put their weeks of training into place, and become the first team to blend together despite fevering nerves and pressure. Southern seemed to find their feet from the start, dominating in through the middle of the ground. Midfielders thrived off tips from the towering Ayang Nyanjok, the 198cm ruckman from St Kilda City. CPL / Keysborough’s Rhys Graham kicked the first goal of the match, and Southern were off to a convincing start.
The ball remained at Southern’s end for the majority, with Central Highlands’ attempts to kick inside their 50 stopped by an unwavering Southern defence, including some strong marks from defenders William Clarke (St Pauls) and Bailey Griffin (Hampton). In particular moments, it looked like the Southern boys had been playing together for longer than just a couple of months.
Central Highlands had their first scoring opportunity late in the last quarter, kicking a point, a credit to Southern’s solid defence. Two goal post hits from Southern affected what could have been an even better start for them at quarter time, leading 3.4-22 to Central 0.1-1.
The second term saw smothers galore, as Central were continued to be forced wide due to amounts of pressure applied from Southern, including damaging spoils from Parkmore / Springvale District’s Robert Lega Frost. However, Southern struggled to convert turnovers into goals, with inaccurate goal kicking early on. Central managed to weave through Southern’s defence, kicking the first two goals, but fizzled away shortly after, when Southern seemed to awaken half way through the term.
Endeavour Hills’ Nick Gay was courageous with some head over ball efforts, and captain Jayce Morgan and Ayang Nyanjok connected well in the middle to provide scoring opportunities for Southern’s forwards. With another four goals, Southern looked strong going into half time, leading 7.9-51 to Central’s 2.1-13.
After half time, Central Highlands got off to an aggressive start, inflicting some tough tackles and knocks, and kicking the first goal –sending a strong message that they were not going down without a fight. Central’s Joel Chester was tenacious in the middle, providing hope for the trailing side, alongside their best on ground performer Jacob Brown. Southern were kept quiet in the third under a determined Central, who outscored Southern by 10 points, 9.11 (65) to 6.1 (37).
The final term of the match was set to be interesting as Central looked to continue their fiery play before the break. Unfortunately for Central, Southern’s class across the ground, including smart hand work from Parkmore/Springvale District’s Michael Pettit and penetrating kicks from Southern’s best on ground Nick Lloyd, prevented them from cracking the lead.
Three goals, including one memorable snap by captain Jayce Morgan was the icing on the cake for a deserving Southern outfit, outrunning a dogged Central and claiming the Interleague trophy by 35 points, 12.13 (85) to 8.2 (50).
All in all, Southern’s class and ability to gel together from the get-go was the difference in this match, and will go down as a monumental achievement for the prosperous 19s, as their greatest football endeavours only begin.
Southern Football Netball League
Best players: N. Lloyd, N. Gay, T.Smith, A.Nyanjok, J.Smith, R.Graham
Goal kickers: R. Graham 3, J. Smith 2, B. Dolan 2, J. Morgan, T. Gavenlock, M. Rogerson, J. Chapman, M. Pettit
Central Highlands Football League
Best players: L. Hull, B. Maher, D. Sangster, H. Rodgers, J. Chester, J. Brown
Goal kickers: J. Brown 2, J. Chester, Z. Boland, C. Lovig, L. Stranks, A. Milroy, B. Coffey