Reserves coaches report 2015

With a solid pre-season under our belts and some handy new recruitsthrough the door, we were looking great with numbers and depth for the first time in years. With around 77 registered players on the books, our biggest problem in the reserves this season was how to juggle it and make sure everyone got a game whilst still fielding our best side and providing players to the seniors ready for their game style and positional requirements. Rotating 50 odd players through the 2s was a logistical nightmare, but as the season got rolling things started to sort themselves out with unavailabilities and injuries starting to occur.

Our Round 1 side v Parkside was the strongest 2s side I’ve ever seen at the club in my 15 years, and the scoreboard reflected this with a dominant 164pt win. With a favourable draw having to play mostly the weaker sides twice and the stronger sides once apart from Westbourne Grammar, we went 4 wins no losses with a % of 600 after Round 4 whilst still rotating guys through. Round 5 was our first hard fought battle for the year, as we came up against the also undefeated Westbourne who were belting cellar dwellers Chadstone, Mt Lilydale, Masala, and Parkside by even bigger margins than us. On a sunny day at ‘The Snake Pit’ it was a real arm wrestle as we kept within striking distance of them for much of the game, with only 9pts in it 5mins into the last quarter before our courageous captain Turbo hurt his neck, requiring an ambulance, and the game was abandoned. What may have happened after this who knows, but it recorded our first loss for the year and brought us back to the pack.

With plenty of easy wins in between, we got to Round 8 out at Nth Brunswick with a weak side, and underestimated our strong bodied opponents in Nth Brunswick to get absolutely hammered to the tune of 84pts. This was a real wake up call, showing us that if we are slightly off, and aren’t prepared to put our heads over the ball, we will get beaten by lesser sides on paper than us.

The break came at a perfect time for us, as we regrouped, and reflected on our impressive start to the season. With many areas of our game needing to be perfected, and a tough run of games coming up, the next month was season defining. A massive game out at Point Cook, with only 7pts in it at ¾ time, saw us go away from them to the tune of 35pts to almost seal a top 2 finish provided we take care of the lower ranked sides in the run home. We then proceeded to knock off a much improved Mt Lilydale, Parkside at home, Manningham, Chadstone and Masala to go to the last break in great shape with 2 strong sides to follow to harden us up for finals.

With South Mornington in the top 6 and stacking their side with their seniors out of the equation, we knew we were in for a real contest. We jumped them early, setting up a 60pt half time lead with our side playing an impressive brand of football. After half time we seemed to put the cue in the rack, allowing the Tigers to get some run out of defence and take the game right up to us. To the boys credit we fought it out well to hold our half time lead of 60pts at the final siren.

Round 18 was a perfect rendition for our finals campaign, heading out to Westbourne Grammar to take on the undefeated power house. In windy scrappy conditions, we kept in touch until a late flurry of goals to them late in the game sealed a 21pt loss. But we knew our best was good enough, especially if we could tidy up our skills under pressure and field our best possible side for the next time we may face them. We were finals bound for the first time since 2008, with many of the boys never having played a final which was so exciting.

If we were to jag a flag for the first time since 1965, we would have to overcome our nemesis’s in Nth Brunswick, Box Hill Nth, and Westbourne in successive weeks and that’s exactly what we achieved. We took it right up to Nth Brunswick and wore hit after hit, after hit, playing our best game for the year to get the job done by 8 goals. With a heap of confidence from beating Nth Brunswick, we took down Box Hill Nth in a dominant first half display in windy spring conditions to set up a Grand Final with the undefeated Westbourne.

Grand Final week should be one of the most exciting weeks of a player or coaches life, but instead turned out to be a most stressful one for myself and the players. With numerous obstacles that we had to overcome including the changing of the venue without any notice early in the week, then our opponent in Westbourne being disqualified then re-instated on the Thursday was an absolute joke to be fair. But this made us all the more determined to knock over whoever was in front of us on the day and get it down the hard way.

We knew we had to start well, as we won the toss and kicked down breeze in the first term jumping out to a 2 goal lead. The second term saw Westbourne come back at us hard, controlling the first half of the quarter with the wind behind their backs, but they couldn’t make us pay on the scoreboard as our defence held firm and re-buffed countless attacks before a late goal just before the siren to Mitchy Szabo got us back in front at the main break. The third term saw one of the best quarters of team football you will see, as we kicked 6 goals in a row to go out to a 29pt ¾ time lead. We had to hold strong, as we knew Westbourne would come at us hard as they were too good a side to not go down with a fight. With our midfielders going in for the ball with no fear and our defence holding firm, we kept the wolves at bay and went on the win the premiership.

What an amazing ride. A big thanks to my leaders in Turbo and Straughnie who were the rocks for the team all year, and to all the hard work put in by every single player over my last 2 years as ressies coach… with our photo now up on the wall we now will share a special memory of season 2015 forever…

John Doak