Junior Footy: Semi Final St Kilda City Under 11 Red v East Brighton Vampires, Le Page Park Oval 2, Cheltenham

 4 Aug, 2013

By George McFly

“Now are you just going to sit there, and let them take it away from us?” – EJ Whitten

In the spirit of the big announcement from the BBC during the week, we’re going to do some time travel in footy report land. Let’s jump in the TARDIS and zoom from quotidian round 8 to the glorious semi-final.

You know it is a big day at the junior footy when the roast beef sliders appear on the canteen menu. An early arrival at the ground gives some of the camp a chance to pause at oval number 1, exchange a few theories, denounce the administration and playing roster of the Melbourne Football Club, speculate about the day to come, and watch Pete Grey’s under 12s fix up Ajax in their cut-throat semi. A lot of Pete’s boys are old team­mates of ours, and their success warms the hearts of our boys and puts a spring in their step. It seems like a good omen. The team photographer gets outside a slider, declares it excellent, and we repair to the rooms to get a taste of the big-game atmosphere.

The big game atmosphere is thick and pungent. The rooms have old-school wooden floorboards, and the excited shouts and shrieks of a pack of fired-up 10 and 11 year old boys bounce around, mingling with the nervy chatter of parents, the futile exhortations for quiet and order from the coaches, the clatter of studs, the cheers and groans floating in from the crowd outside at the 11 o’clock game and the nostril-assailing odour of Gecko Grip to form a swampy, intoxicating gumbo. Football soup.

Coach Brian imposes some order on proceedings, the boys settle on their benches and it is time for the day’s first address from on high. The simple things in life are the best, coach Brian tells the boys. We need to do the basic things right. We need to hold our marks. We need to kick the ball straight. We need to concentrate for entire quarters. We need to run hard. None of this is complicated, but it is all vitally important. We are here today, all together. We’ve achieved a lot so far this year, but it is time to achieve some more. East Brighton beat us by 4 or 5 goals last time we met, and they will be going into this game with a fair bit of confidence. We need to crack in hard from the word go and give that confidence a good, hard shake.

Up the hill for the warm-up. Runner Randall puts the boys through their paces, and they are looking pretty sharp – or at least as sharp as the sloping terrain and swirling breeze will allow them to look. There’s plenty of talk and the ball is staying, for the most part, off the deck. Back to the rooms, and it is coach Marcus’s turn on the soapbox. He stresses the importance of finals, how tough they are to get to, how fulfilling they are to win. When you are the age our boys are, life seems impossibly long and opportunities seem to be things that just keep getting plonked down on a plate in front of you, like your Mum’s lemon chicken. Coach Marcus (and the rest of we oldies) know better. It was hard to get here, it took a lot of work, and we may never be here again. We must make the most of this chance.



First Quarter

There could be no better choice for captain on a day like this than compact hard nut Jordie Gray. He was born to play in footy finals. He runs back from the toss pointing at the goals at the Argus St end. The wind is blowing hard in the general direction of our left hand forward pocket. The goal square resembles a wading pool, but this end of the ground is a veritable Sahara in comparison to the other end, which is doing a passable impression of the Louisiana bayou. It seems like we are probably kicking to what will turn out to be the scoring end. We need to hit the scoreboard, quick smart.

As always happens in these games involving the better teams, we get an eerie, ominous kind of lull or statis straight after the first bounce. The siren sounds. The crowd cheers. The ball goes up and then the midfields lock horns, trying to find an edge on each other, and the agate goes nowhere. One boy handballs to another. That boy is promptly tackled. A ball-up ensues, a boy tries to get a quick clearing kick. The kick is smothered. The ball hits the carpet. A boy dives on it. Several boys dive on him. Another ball-up, and so it goes, for a minute or two, until Henry-Joe Nankervis goes up at a ball-up, palms to Sam Dawkins and he slams it through the big sticks. Pandemonium erupts in the Reds camp, arrayed around the fence at the attacking end, and we’re on the board.

Alex Goldman and Roman Anastasios are right in the thick of it early on, as they always are. Roman is roving the ruck taps and getting his hands on the ball, but the Vampires are pouncing on him in numbers. They know who he is, and they ain’t going to give him an inch. When the ball is spilling clear of the packs, Alex is reacting quickly, moving sharply, belting it forward with the breeze into our forward line. Frank Lyon is lively on the wing, looking sharp and providing a mobile target, and Sam Dawkins and Ty Glennon are throwing their weight around in the middle of the park, tackling with intent, giving the Vampires no chance to clear the ball forward.Elijah McMeekin is hard at it across half forward, hitting the bobbling ball at pace, setting up half-chances, exerting forward pressure. The term wears on, and with the aid of the breeze and a lot of hard grunt work in the guts, we’re getting on top. The ball is down in our forward line most of the time, and Will Connolly is working hard to lock it in there, laying tackle after tackle around the goal square and in the pockets, exerting some fierce forward pressure. The quarter is perhaps 6 or 7 minutes old when Roman Anastasios gets hold off the ball at half forward, breaks momentarily clear, and belts a low-flying, velocious, chest-high tumble-punt under the wind and into the left forward pocket at speed. It’s a penetrating ball, but is it catchable? The right bloke is standing in front of it in the shape of sure-handed full-forward Luke McIntyre, and he coolly pouches it. He goes back behind the mark, assesses the prevailing wind, steadies himself, takes aim at the right-hand post and watches as the breeze carries his high kick over the umpire’s hat.

Skipper Jordie Gray has looked dangerous across half-forward, eluding his opponent, getting in space, dishing off handballs and scooping up the loose nut. It seems a mere matter of time before his elusiveness and good touch translate to points on the board, and so it proves. Playing well out in front of his man, he gets on the end of a low ball in from the productive Sam Dawkins, goes back and posts our third major.

It ain’t all one way traffic. The Vampires are a worthy foe. They are winning some ball in the clinches, but they are finding it tough to carry it past their half-forward line. Jake Austin is in great form across the middle and the back of the centre square, both winning the ball and tackling. He’s game and pugnacious, a real dynamo. The wind is pushing the ball to the left of the ground, and Patrick Twigg is up and down the flank, scooping the ball up one-handed, enlisting the boundary line as his ally in deactivating the Vampire go-forward. Ryder Logan earns himself a free kick with his uncompromising attack at the football. Nick Tu and Sweeney Crabb are brickwalling it in the rearward 50. Great effort by the boys at the back to keep a side like the Vampires scoreless for the term

1/4 Time St Kilda Red 3/3/21 East Brighton Vampires 0/0/00


Second Quarter

The boys run back to their places with coach Marcus’s words ringing in their ears – the Vampires have got the wind and we are going to be facing the sternest test of our young footy lives in this term. Fullback Marlon Trevitt has grown as a leader this season, especially since being switched down back, and he shows the way in the early stages of the term. He takes a solid chest mark from a high ball in, then covers ground and makes a vital spoil. Patrick Twigg takes a high overhead mark from another long Vampires bomb and Jake Austin makes a couple of superb clearing kicks. Henry Manallack is all over his man like a cheap suit, dragging him down to the Godfrey Hirst with a strong tackle. Henry-Joe Nankervis slides back to help out, offers a good contest at the stoppages, and links with Paddy to clear the last line. Jimmy Glenfield is in the thick of it, throwing his slight frame into the packs and tackling like a bulldog. Frank Lyon is right there with him, tackling hard. Oscar Tyrrell exemplifies the kind of effort that the coaches are looking for with a long hard chase, resulting in the dispossessing of his foe.

We’re doing well early doors, keeping the Vamps at bay, but after a period of stern resistance, the cracks begin to show. A couple of our long clearing kicks from the final line fall into the waiting arms of the Vampires, who bomb them back in and ratchet up the pressure. Our concentration lapses, and some East Brighton players find themselves a yard or two clear around goal, take some uncontested grabs, and before we know it, our lead is eaten up and we’re back to taws. Through the hard work and enterprise of Jordie Gray, Roman Anastasios and Alex Goldman, we gradually work the cantaloupe down to the other end, where some neat work by hand and foot by Daniel Iarrussi and some desperate second, third and fourth efforts from Sam Dawkins allow us to lock the ball in our forward zone and press for points, but the siren sounds before we can hit back on the scoreboard in any meaningful way.

1/2 Time St Kilda Red 3/4/22 East Brighton Vampires 4/2/26

It is a high stakes game, and coach Marcus’s words at half time reflect this. On a day like today, against an opposition that’s talented and switched on and hungry, we can’t afford to let up. We let ourselves down because we didn’t keep working. We let our men get free. We didn’t tackle. Our concentration must be total, our effort constant. We can’t afford to work hard for a while and then get self-satisfied and allow ourselves the luxury of a goof-off or a daydream. While we are lollygagging, they will be kicking goals. Coach Brian exhorts the boys not to go in half-hearted. We must commit our bodies and our minds to the job.


Third Quarter

Worst possible start. After all those half-time exhortations from the coaches about effort and concentration and whole-heartedness, after all the beseechings on the subject of boldness and urgency, the Vampires take it away with ease from the first centre bounce, belt the ball long to an unattended goal square and pocket six clams. Points are at a premium today, and this one goal kicking into the wind is going to be worth 2 or 3 going the other way. There’s time enough left on the clock that the situation need not necessarily be terminal, but it does look pretty dire. The crucial thing will be how our boys choose to respond.

To their eternal credit, they respond magnificently. They look deep inside themselves, roll their sleeves up and start working. Our centre-square ball-getting battalion of Henry-Joe Nankervis, Roman Anastasios, Sam Dawkins and Alex Goldman crack in hard and win us first use of the pill. Luke McIntyre gets his hands on the ball on the wing, and starts to look creative and dangerous. We start to put together some promising little sequences of attacking play. Luke takes a strong mark and links with Roman with a slick handball. Roman executes a deft ruck tap to Oscar Tyrrell, and puts him into space, running hard. Luke gets a handball from Alex Goldman and belts it forward to Jordie Gray, who hits Oscar Tyrrell lace out, Oscar handballs to Henry-Joe Nankervis running by. Jordie Gray paddles the ball along the flank, hard on the line, jinking and jving. We’re moving the ball forward with fluency and regularity, but we just can’t execute the coup de grace.

And on we go. We’re camped down in the forward line for minutes on end now. The pressure cooker is rattling and shaking, but we can’t blow the lid off. You get the sense that a goal, if it comes soon enough, could swing the momentum our way, but when will that goal come? Will it come at all? And then it happens. Roman Anastasios (who else?) gathers a loose ball 25 metres out from goal, swings his right boot across his body, and snaps a spanking long range major. The release of tension in the Reds supporter group is palpable. We’re back on track.

Next clearance, though, goes to the Vampires, and again we have to dig in and defend. If we allow them rack up another major into the wind, that might be the end of the penny section. Xavier Field ain’t about to let that happen on his watch, and he sprints out from a back pocket to meet the in-coming ball. For an agonising minute or two, the ball is buried in our backline, with Sweeney Crabb and Alex Goldman cracking in hard in and under to lock it down. The boys are mighty in their defiance, and finally Patrick Twigg clears the back half with a long roost that finds Jordie Gray.

Forward we go again. And again, the action pinballs around our forward 50 with no tangible result. The Vampires are defending with purpose and no matter the weight of possession that we stack up, we can’t quite break through. Then at last, we get a break. One of the Vampire defenders clears with a long kick out of the right-hand pocket, which lands safely in the arms of Luke McIntyre. Long kick that he is, and with the wind at his back, he’s probably still just out of scoring range. Patrick Twigg runs by and, exercising his trademark footy smarts, counsels Luke not to kick until Roman gets down into the square. Roman, urged on by teammates and supporters alike, hot-foots it to the square and waves Luke in. The kick is high and straight and judged to a nicety, and it lands smack-dab in Roman’s mitts. But then – quelle horreur! – it bobbles out. In Romanworld, though, this is but a temporary setback. He snaffles his own crumb, snaps and splits the middle. Bedlam breaks out along the fence.

But the Vampires ain’t done with. They take it away again from the centre bounce, and again we’re locked in our back half, hanging on like grim death. Once again, Jake Austin is in the thick of it. He’s having a whale of a game, tackling and diving on the loose nut. Jack Pougher takes a very good (and very important) grab on the last line. Xavier Field stands like a colossus, Vampire forwards hanging off him, waiting for the cavalry to arrive. The quarter ends with Patrick Twigg executing a superb clearing kick, banana-style, off the outside of his right boot.

Early glitch aside, we’ve done pretty well. But have we done well enough? 3 points down. A term to play. Kicking into the breeze. We’re probably a 30/70 chance. 40/60 at best. It will take some real heroics to pull this one put of the bag.

3/4 time St Kilda Red 5/4/34 East Brighton Vampires 5/7/37


Fourth Quarter

So – what was this term like? A quarter of an hour of mid-to-high level anxiety, punctuated by occasional bouts of sheer panic, terminating in a joyous, cathartic, life-affirming outpouring of joyous relief.

In style, the play resembles less a game of Australian Football, and more a grinding, attritional, ruck-and­maul-dominated 15 minutes of wet weather rugby union. The ball moves from end to end, slowly, surrounded by a pack of desperate boys, half of them in turn trying to reef the ball free and get it in the clear, and the other half trying to lock it in. Every time the ball spills out and someone makes a break for it, that boy is quickly tackled and surrounded and the tombola locked in tight. Whenever a boy gets enough room to swing a foot and try to roost clear, someone smothers the kick, dives on the ball and away we go again. The little fellows dominate the stanza, getting in low and driving their bodies into the scrum. Jimmy Glenfield features prominently, and the sight of him diving over bodies, fire in his eyes, to get at the albert will lift his team­mates and drive them on to the end of the quarter. Ditto Sam Dawkins, as he and Jimmy and Jake Austin tackle themselves to a standstill. Alex Goldman chucks himself into the fray, heedless of life and limb. The little fellows in the guts of the bunch are accompanied by some handy outriders, drawn from the ranks of our taller players. Henry-Joe Nankervis makes some terrific tackles, while Luke McIntyre’s long arms help him to pull off 3 or 4 handy smothers on the edge of the scrimmage. Ty Glennon hits the loose ball at speed and with intent and tackles fiercely. Roman Anastasios is a one man flying squad, bobbing up all over the ground, chasing down the Vampires speed men whenever they dash clear. His bundling of a ball-carrying Vampires player across the boundary with a powerful and well-timed bump is one of the most spectacular (not to mention important) pieces of play for the day. He also takes a super-valuable pack mark deep in defence, late in the day, and hits Luke on the chest at a distance of 30 metres with a stinging foot pass.

When we move the ball forward, the little fellow who really comes into his own is Jordie Gray, with his ability to step and swerve and get clear and manufacture a shot at goal. Jack Pougher and Henry Manallack work hard, giving their all to lock the ball in the swamp that is our forward 50. Jordie moves our score forward with some very, very valuable behinds and we manage to draw level. With 12 or 13 of our boys forming a tight ring around the ball, we manage to rip and tear and wrestle and drive the ball through the bog and into the goal square, where it gets rushed through for the crucial single.

Now we just have to hold on. The Vampires hit back hard, and we under under siege big time in the last part of the quarter. Marlon Trevitt is terrific at the back, holding his nerve and launching himself full tilt into the fray whenever a loose ball finds its way into the last line of defence. In the dying minutes of the game, with our goal under siege and the ball bobbling dangerously around at the top of our goal square, Patrick Twiggpulls off a rousing piece of derring-do, sprinting across from the left hand flank, snatching the cobbler’s awl, and lighting out down the right side of the park, taking three bounces and driving the air conveyance clear of the danger zone, far away up the wing.

The quarter ends as it has proceeded, with the ball in dispute and our gang of terriers scratching and clawing (metaphorically) with all their might. Final siren and this is the difference between this and that.

Grown men and women weep and embrace and invade the field, punching the air and grinning ear to ear, making beelines for their young heroes. Our gladiators converge on one another and meet up in a joyful throng near the boundary in front of their proud coaches and fans. The celebration moves on to the rooms, where the boys form a tight circle and belt out a rousing rendition of the song, which is as vociferous as it is loud. What a day.

Final Score

St Kilda Red 5/8/38 East Brighton Vampires 5/7/37



Roman Anastasios 2 Sam Dawkins Luke McIntyreJordie Gray

The TakeAway

Tremendous first quarter. Our backline was as tight as a drum, our midfield cracked in hard and won the ball, and our good ball users got their hands on it down forward and hit the scoreboard. The absolute perfect recipe for finals footy. We got a little loose in the second term and the start of the third. Boys have to remember that these good sides can move the ball quickly, so they can’t afford to have a little disco nap when the ball is a kick or two up the ground. They have to remain vigilant and stick with their man. Thereafter, the boys were exemplary, particularly in the last quarter. To hold a talented, well coached, successful side like East Brighton scoreless, kicking to the scoring end, in that last quarter was a wonderful effort. If we can carry that hunger and commitment into the grand final we will be a hard nut to crack.

The Role Models

Marlon Trevitt – for having the courage to be bold when the stakes were high. It was inspiring to see Marlon charging out at the ball from fullback, taking it upon himself to deal with the situation when things got a little hairy.

Jake Austin -mad props to this kid for working his tail off all day long. Made umpteen tackles, won umpteen hard balls, and just kept running all day, getting to contests and getting involved. Great game.


The Postscript

So, as we are wrapping this report up, the news filters through that Highett have knocked the Vampires over in the preliminary final. Apparently some of our boys are cock-a-hoop about this because we beat Highett handily earlier in the year, so we must now go into the grand final as warm favourites. Boys, please listen. We implore, entreat and beseech you not to tumble into this line of thinking. We might have handled them earlier in the year, but that was then, and this is now. Highett are on an upward spiral. They are not the same mob we beat 7 or 8 weeks ago. They are in red hot form. In this finals series, they have knocked over East Malvern and East Brighton in succession, and those 2 sides have been our testing material all year. If you are of a mathematical bent and you want to line up the formlines, then consider this – in their last game, Highett beat the Vampires by 1 point. And so did we.

So don’t take this lightly. You are a very good footy side. If you all give of your best on the day, we’re confident you can win the flag. But please don’t kid yourselves that it will be easy.

In the mean time, eat well. Get yourselves to bed nice and early. No secret computer games in the dead of night. Get the footy in your hands every day. Bounce it while you walk to school. Handball it against the back wall and catch the rebounds. Get your old man or your mum or your sister or whoever might be up for it out into the backyard or down to the park and use them as a human tackling bag. Train hard, listen to your coaches and make the most of every minute of your final session on the track. And enjoy Grand Final week ­they don’t come along that often.

We love you. We’re proud of you. Go Reds.


  1. Superb. Beautifully described.

    Roman Anastasios is my new favourite footballer.

    I want to see these golden names up on the butcher shop wall:

    HF: Roman Anastasios Henry-Joe Nankervis Sweeney Crabb

    And I can’t wait to hear about the Grand Final.

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