After an undefeated home-and-away season and a resounding victory over Willoughby Wildcats in the semi-final, Team Ablett travelled to Rofe Park Hornsby Heights to meet Pennant Hills on Sunday for the Sydney Harbour U11 Division 2 Grand-Final. The Cats had secured a memorable and hard fought 10-point victory in Round 8, and we were looking forward to the rematch. It was cool and windy and the sun was shining brightly, and the ground announcer was repeatedly assuring us that it was a great day for footy.
Coach Roger’s pre-game and break-time addresses have reached next level over the past four weeks, but he really brought his “A game” to the Grand Final. His pre-game address could’ve been titled “This is the Game Here Today, Boys!”. Roger’s addresses are particularly popular with the parents, and despite warnings from the ground manager about coming on the ground during the breaks, the parents can’t resist listening to his speeches, sneaking in at the back of the team like naughty school kids. Hudson was rewarded for his continual good form and on-field leadership with the captainship for the day, and he led his team out for the toss of the coin. We were down to 19 today, with Zak Evans off with a leg fracture. He didn’t let his team down though, travelling up to watch his mates play.
The Cats were hit hard from the centre-bounce, and within minutes the Demons had registered their first goal. This was quickly followed up by two more and the Cats were only able to score a solitary behind during the term. The Demons were harder at the ball, more desperate, tackled ferociously and dropped very few marks. Whether it was nerves or overconfidence, the Cats were just not quite there, and with the Demons getting first look at the ball through their ruckman’s work at their stoppages, they took full advantage, pressuring mistake after mistake out of our boys. The siren sounded for the first break and they came in with the score 0.1.1 to 3.1.19.
With Jude coming off at quarter time with bruising to the heel, we were suddenly down one rotation. Lucius was moved to replace him at wing and Harvey moved forward. Coach Roger implored the boys to claw their way back into the game, one goal at a time. There was a noticeable improvement in effort, and part-way through the term Hudson weaved his way through traffic and steered the ball through for the Cats first major. A small let up meant the Demons also scored, and with one goal each in the term the boys came into the half-time break 1.1.7 to 4.3.27.
The third term was a mirror of the second, roughly even in general play, ferociously intense, and both teams kicking one goal. Our second came through the ice cool set shot of Dylan O’Dowd, who’d taken a mark going back with the flight from a clearing kick out of the midfield. The score at three-quarter time was 2.1.13 to 5.5.35, not entirely insurmountable, since Team Ablett have kicked many four goal quarters, if against weaker opposition. It would be difficult today though, against a strong team who had bought their contest.
Any chance was dashed, when the Demons scored early on in the final term, and from there it seemed the matter was beyond doubt. They scored a final goal, and though the Cats battled on manfully, we could only register a couple of behinds for the term. The final siren sounded with the score at 2.3.15 to 7.7.49. Pennant Hills were clearly the better team on the day. After the presentation, the opposition coach addressed both teams, complimenting the Cats as the benchmark team of the season, and that they had used their previous loss to spur on the boys.
It was a disappointing way to end the season, but the boys were reminded that they are a quality team of players, and that getting into a Grand Final is a very hard and rare achievement. While a lot of teams have highly talented players, it is Coach Roger that has melded this group of highly talented boys into a team. They have taken in his coaching style wholeheartedly and he has taken them beyond their individual abilities, gotten more out of them than they could as a bunch of talented individuals. He has expanded their knowledge of footy and and it is his coaching ability as much as the players abilities that got them into the finals.
Only one award was given, Play of the Day. Olly Meichen proved his worth time and time again in the backline, covering off, getting first to the ball, kicking up to midfield, and always under pressure. He showed he truly is a big game player and deserved the award.
A highlight though was Hudson Savage being awarded Best and Fairest on ground by the umpires. It is a singular distinction to get Best on Ground in a losing side; in the AFL it hasn’t happened since Chris Judd in 2005! Hudson was at every contest, and had a hand in just about every Cats score. He scored the Cats first goal and it was his kick out of the pack in the third which Dylan O’Dowd marked truly for our second. Congratulations Hudson, you’ve had a great year and a great finals series.
The boys were not completely disconsolate either. After the awards were handed out and the speeches were said, they still posed for photographs and thumped out the team song to the delight of their parents. In all 2020 has been an outstanding year for Team Ablett, just faltering at the final hurdle.
The coaches would like to give thanks for all the support they’ve received during the year from the parents and from the club. We hope the boys and yourselves have enjoyed the year.
Come on 2021!
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