Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ashburton vs Fitzroy

The final game against ladder leader, Ashburton, was much more than the season finale, rather it marked the end of the Ramshaw/Irwin era for the team. Super Coach, John Ramshaw, had coached the boys for three seasons, during which time he'd developed the team from raw beginners into the high performance outfit they'd become. Ever positive, he'd nurtured his young charges, through the highs and lows of the team's journey to this point. He'd also managed to install in them a strong sense of fairness, respect and esprit de corps. Ably assisted by Paul, Scott, Lance, Gerry and Sav, the boys had come a long way. Sadly, the game also marked the end of the Irwin era, as team manager, Sean Irwin, was also stepping down. Capable of keeping more balls in the air than a Moscow Circus juggler, Sean's barrage of early season emails would be missed by all. In the rooms before the game, John told the boys to embrace and enjoy their final game in the under 11s and not to let the Ashburton players 'go-the-goose' and kick over their heads. They were to move the ball on quickly when on the attack. Perhaps wishing to make a bold statement in this final game of the Ramshaw/Irwin era, two of the fiercest competitors in the competition, Stanley and Noah Dekker, led the team out as Co-Captains. The fast, skillful Ashburton side was on the attack almost immediately, and demonstrating why they were the top side, scored three goals in rapid succession. Full back, Will, was in the thick of it, while Jack, Joel and Sam Ward where also doing their best to repel the Ashburton advances. Not loosing their cool and though sheer dogged persistence, the Fitzroy defenders managed to work the ball forward. Active around the midfield, Isaac and Max were at their competitive best and suddenly the ball was in Fitzroy's forward line. Out of nowhere, and to the shock of the Ashburton defenders, Lucas pounced and kicked a goal. With the boys on a roll, Joel and Laird cleared the ball from the centre bounce, and propelled it once again into Fitzroy's forward line. A fierce competition ensured, before Yianni, playing like a rover, scooped the ball up and kicked long and straight to score another goal. The quarter ended with Fitzroy only five points behind on the scoreline and having stemmed the Ashburton blitzkrieg. Scott was delighted with the team's performance and urged them to keep up their intensity in the second quarter. Play started again with the ball quickly in Fitzroy forward line. With the Ashburton defenders desperate not to let through another goal, scoring opportunities were hard to come by. After a period of stalemate, the Fitzroy forwards began to organize and take control. Yianni was back in the action and Tom Ward kicked to the accurate Sam Ward, who marked and lined up to kick the team's third goal. Shortly after, Max took a spectacular overhead mark and was desperately unlucky to hit the post with what seemed like a certain goal. On the wings, Darcy and Finn were having cracking games. Both were fast and attacking at the ball, neither shying away from a contest against two or more opponents. Dom was continuing his strong form from the previous few games, marking strongly and bringing other's into the play. The quarter ended with Ashburton kicking another goal but scores still relatively even. At the break, Gerry outlined that Fitzroy has managed to get the ball inside their 50 metre zone eight times and had scored a single goal. Ashburton however, had only got the ball inside their 50 zone once and had managed to match Fitzroy on the scoreline - a telling statistic and one that needed to change if they were to win the game. The third quarter started with Stanley, Tom Ward and Noah Dekker playing with desperation to turn the game against a rampaging Ashburton. A fearless Noah Cameroux came charging through a wall of defenders to win possession in the backline and kick forward, while Alex was dodging and weaving his way through the field to try and find space with the ball. Jack was taking marks and getting kicks, moving the ball forward any way he could, while Lachie was playing hard at the ball and doing his best to create opportunities for the team. Dom was continuing to have a major impact around the ground. The quarter ended with Fitzroy having conceded three goals, but remaining competitive none the less. The final quarter was a testament to the mental toughness that John had instilled in the boys over the three years he'd coached them. Not giving up and playing to win, the entire team combined to give him a fitting send-off. Fighting hard in the packs, Leo was giving nothing away, while Kyle and Joe were attacking the ball relentlessly. Taking personal accountability for keeping Ashburton scoreless, Will took three commanding marks at full back and propelled the ball away, while Darcy and Finn increased their intensity in a virtuoso display of skill and tenacity. Yianni was continuing to prowl across the forward line looking dangerous and Isaac was at his athletic and impressive best. On field leader, Laird, encouraged the boys to give their all, leading by example. The quarter ended with Fitzroy only conceding two points. The boys lined up to shake hands. Both teams gave the umpires three cheers to acknowledge the contribution and vital support they provided the game. The Ashburton coach was effusive in his praise for Fitzroy team, noting that they were the one team they wouldn't want to play in the finals. Dom was awarded the opposition team medal, fitting acknowledgement for his commanding performance in this game and in the second half of the season. Back in the rooms, there were emotional scenes as the players and parents farewelled John and Sean. In an eloquent speech, John noted that while this chapter of their playing careers was coming to an end, the boys still had the opportunity to write the upcoming chapters of their respective playing books. He thanked everyone for their support, the assistant coaches, Sean, the parents and the players. The Ramshaw/Irwin era had come to an end in fitting style. There'd be no more 'going-the-goose' or chanting of the three R's for some time, as the boys departed for the season. All was not lost however and indeed the future looked bright for the team, the club and for football. Go Roys!