From left: Lucas Liakakos (21), Dante Visentini (16), Nick Salmon (22), Captain Finn Callaghan (4), Nate Dear (19) and Blake Howes (8). Photo: Cherie Dear. Posted in Featured News , Front Page News

Six SMJFL U12 players were selected to participate in the School Sport Australia Victorian (SSV) U12 Boys AFL team in a recent National Carnival in Geelong. Over 4000 students were nominated statewide to try out for selection in this carnival with the final number narrowed down to 23.

Nate Dear (Beaumaris JFC), Captain of the U12 team Finn Callaghan (Mordialloc-Braeside JFC), Blake Howes (Mordialloc-Braeside JFC), Dante Visentini, (Brighton Beach JFC), Lucas Liakakos (Prahran JFC) and Nick Salmon (East Brighton Vampires JFC) were selected to take part in the School Sport Australia Victorian (SSV) 12 Years & Under Championship in AFL.

This carnival, run by School Sport Australia, is played over one week per year, with this year’s carnival happening in Geelong, Victoria over July 19-25, 2015. Each state participates with the competition pooled into two divisions, A & B. The winners of both the division faced-off in the Grand Final on Saturday July 25.

The team’s manager, Cadell Duke, said the trial process itself is “extremely extensive”.

“…Players [have] to progress from District-Division-Regional-Metro-combined trials, culminating in a Training Camp over two days to finalise the final 23,” Duke said.

Dear (19) and __ playing in their first match of the carnival against ACT in Geelong. Photo: Cherie Dear.

Dear (19) playing in his first match of the carnival against ACT in Geelong. Photo: Cherie Dear.

On July 19, the boys began their weeklong championship. The Victorian side was pooled in Division A along with A.C.T., New South Wales and South Australia.

In round one on Sunday 19, the side was paired up against the A.C.T. Dear was the leading goalkicker with six goals in his sides’ blazing victory over the A.C.T. side, scoring 26.16.172 to A.C.T.’s 0 score. Visentini and Callaghan also scored one goal apiece for the victory. Dear’s impressive work down at the goals also earned him the second-best player nomination on the ground.

Victoria’s next opponent was New South Wales on July 20. After their impressive victory in round one, NSW again proved no match against the polished Victorian side, going down by 102 points. Victoria ended up on 16.12.108 to NSW’s 1.0.6. Liakakos and Visentini scored two goals for this match, while Salmon came out with one. In the Best on ground player nominations, three of the five were SMJFL players, with Liakakos (second), Howes (fourth) and Visentini (fifth) earning a nomination.

After two rounds, both South Australia and Victoria were equal in score for the Pool A ladder, meaning the next game against SA on Tuesday July 21 was set to be a big one.

Victoria again rose to the challenge, with multiple goalkickers leading the match against South Australia. With Visentini and Howes scoring one goal apiece, and Callaghan being the leading goalkicker with two, Victoria sealed the victory by 64 points.

After the first three rounds, Victoria was undefeated with nine points on the ladder. They next had to face Western Australia, the second team on the ladder in pool B for round four.

The game against WA saw numerous goal kickers, including SMJFL’s Dear with two and Liakakos with a single goal. Callaghan was able to earn the second Best on Ground nomination in his side’s win against WA by 90 points.

Victoria was on top of the ladder and again pitted against South Australia to determine the first and second. Again SMJFL’s players were leading the game, with Dear top of the goal kickers with three goals, Liakakos with two and Salmon with one. Salmon’s effort throughout the match earned him the top Best on Ground nomination, with Callaghan again appearing on the Best on Ground list in the fourth spot. Victoria completely dominated the match, reducing South Australia to just two behinds and winning the match on 15.3(93).

Liakakos (21) in Victoria's match against ACT in the SSA AFL 12 and Under Carnival. Photo: Cherie Dear.

Liakakos (21) in Victoria’s match against ACT in the SSA AFL 12 and Under Carnival. Photo: Cherie Dear.

Victoria didn’t lose a single game for the whole competition and played consistent footy throughout the week. Duke said the team’s mantra throughout the week was to: “‘Take your turn’ and ‘Play your role’,” which he said all of the boys followed.

Manager Duke has been involved with the championships for five years and this year was responsible for building a “club with 23 boys from around the state and bring them, as well as their family and friends together to become a successful and cohesive outfit”.

“We were extremely fortunate this year to have a highly talented group of young men,” Duke said.

“Their conduct both on and off the field, were a credit to their families.”

“The boys were extremely committed to the cause,” Duke said.

“As some of our games were very one-sided, we implored upon the boys the importance of recovery and looking after yourself.

“The boys enjoyed not only a great week of football, but received an education on what it takes to be best prepared to perform at the highest level.”

For more information about the carnival and School Sport Australia, visit www.schoolsport.edu.au.