General Footy Writing: Let every match end with respect among opponents

Round 14 back on 19 July had WRFL Under 16D ladder leader Spotswood playing Williamstown Juniors at Williamstown’s home ground. It was the second last game of the season and, as a match between the top two teams, it would give an indication of what could happen in finals. Spotswood won by 66 points.

By the time you get to Under 16s, the players have all made their own decision to be there. Over the preceding years others have lost interest or found alternatives. By Under 16s, the players are only two or three years away from senior football. In Under 16Ds, however, you don’t have the future top-level players. While the majority are “bottom age”, the better bottom age players are in the As. What you do have is a bunch of kids keen to get their hands on the football.

Throughout the season, coach Dickie Fry and I have rotated the players – on and off the ground, and through various playing positions. It is a rare team indeed, with a list of 25, where there has not been one complaint from a parent about the (lack of) time their child has spent on the ground. We have occasionally lost a player or two as they are rewarded with promotion to the As, but generally the list has been stable. However, with all the rotations, we weren’t that sure how we would match up against the top team.

Come finals the players were informed that the team would now be playing to win. Everyone would get on the ground but game time and positions would be governed by what was best for the team. In the second semi-final, Williamstown turned around the previous loss and won by 37 to get the week off. Spotswood played Altona in the prelim and prevailed by 50 to set up the re-match at Yarraville. As the first team in the Grand Final, Williamstown earned the blue shorts and the choice of coach’s box. On a day when the Northerly was blowing strongly, it was a small advantage to be at the end of the ground where the majority of the play was to occur.

My younger son Herb had played in a preliminary final earlier that day. His Under-12 match, also played on a north-south ground, was at 8.30am, when the wind was really blowing. As is the nature of junior football, it is often easier to kick goals in transition. His team kicked six goals with the wind, but also five against it. His Grand Final is next week.

By 12.30pm the wind had dropped considerably, but the rain had replaced it. Conditions were still tricky. Dickie Fry spoke well and the players were ready. My contribution was to remind them that regardless of opposition tactics, we would stick to playing football. I had been to Collingwood-Richmond the previous day and witnessed what can happen if one team loses site of the primary objective: getting the football. The advice was well-received and, unfortunately, prescient.

Williamstown Juniors won the game by 60 points. Regrettably, our players have still not shaken hands with their beaten opponents. A small group of Spotswood players wanted to redeem their honour by fighting. The playing groups had to be separated and the presentations were conducted without the two teams coming together. The Spotswood coach did take an opportunity to address our players and you could hear the disappointment he felt, not just in the loss, but in the after-match behaviour. Other Spotswood parents I spoke to later were also disgusted with what had occurred.

The Williamstown Juniors Under-16As also won the Grand Final, also against Spotswood. It was an excellent match. Having been headed in the third quarter, Williamstown fought back and won by 14.

At the end of the match the two teams mingled and congratulated each other. It was how it should be always.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.


  1. Greg Critchley says

    I was at both U16 games mentioned and the end of both matches could not provide a stronger contrast. The behaviour of a very small number of Spotswood U16A players was disgraceful. Spotswood U16A team on the other hand had more reason to be disappointed because of a very close game, yet they behaved superbly. The teams congratulated each other and respectfully witnessed the awarding of medals to both teams.

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