From Little Saints, Big Saints Grow – Coaching the U12s


This Northern Territory Football League season I have had the pleasure to joint-coach the St Marys U12s side. I share the role with Shannon Rioli – one of the premier players in the NTFL competition and younger brother of former Essendon player Dean. It is the first time I have coached a side in any form but it has been a very enjoyable experience so far.

Shannon and I were fortunate enough to take over a side of a great bunch of kids with tremendous talent. Unfortunately we lost our first match of the season by 48 points on a hot Saturday morning at Gardens Oval. We had no idea of the players’ abilities and even played our star full-forward at fullback on the basis that he had a thumping left foot kick. Fast forward five months and now the boys are preparing to play in their first ever grand final. We will take on Wanderers on Saturday morning on an action-packed day of grand finals at TIO Stadium.

Among the best players in our four-goal preliminary final win last Friday were a couple of famous football names. Jacob Long is the nephew of Essendon champion Michael Long while Maurice “MJ” Rioli is the son of the late great Maurice Snr that dazzled the crowds during his time at Richmond and South Fremantle. MJ is only ten years old and before this season had rarely played a game of organised football. He is a very raw talent but has showed continuous improvement as he adjusts to playing a structured style of footy.

(Maurice Rioli Jnr enjoys the win)

We also have a centurion goal kicker in our side in Adam Kerinaiua Jnr, who reached the 100-goal milestone on the weekend. His father Adam Snr has pulled on an AFL jumper, representing the Brisbane Bears on three occasions in 1992 as an 18-year-old. Adam is a super young talent and remarkably can still play next season as he has just turned 11.

We finished the season as minor premiers but as everyone is aware, finals football is different. Winning is not the be-all and end-all however try telling that to a bunch of players who are playing with the incentive of winning a premiership medal and keeping their footy jumper. Wish us luck.

Twitter – @JClark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Jackson

    How did you guys go? I also coached an Under 12 side last year, so I can appreciate the fun and challenging issues that invariably come with corralling 20 odd 12 year olds of differing ability, attention spans and commitment.

    Sounds like you’ve got a team of great pedigree, love to hear more


  2. Jackson Clark says

    Grand Final is on Saturday morning this weekend so I’ll keep you posted. I’ve really enjoyed the season. Shannon and I are only 21 and 19 respectively so we feel as though we can relate to these kids well and that helps a bit.

  3. Have to say playing in the Darwin comp is buried on the bucket list, even if it is Division 1 or 2. I’m one of those that pull an all nighter into Friday Morning to watch the games.

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