By Ben Pollard
When Tim Marshall says this year’s Under 13 interleague squad was one of the most professional groups of young footballers he has met, you take notice.
Aside from coaching the SMJFL’s Under 13 representatives for the last two years, Tim works in sports management, identifying talented boys who may one day reach football’s highest level.
He says many within the SMJFL’s current Under 13 ranks have big futures in footy.
“I have a bit to do with development down the pointy end of the AFL draft and I’d be very confident in backing a few of those kids to make a pretty big impression in a few years time,” he says.
It seems the kids have already made an impression.
The Under 13 Division 1 team took all before them in last Sunday’s interleague carnival at Bulleen Park.
Tim coached the group to wins over the Northern Football League and the Yarra Valley Junior Football League, claiming the inaugural Under 13 interleague Shield in the process.
But he says their ability and professionalism meant it was “a pretty easy gig”.
“You don’t really need to read the manual before you drive a Ferrari – it just goes,” Tim says.
“We were confident we had a good team, so the message to the boys was to just back themselves.
“We had three or four basic strategies that we wanted to use and we kept it pretty simple.”
Those strategies became clear at the selection table, where it was decided to make use of the boys’ collective pace on the open spaces of Bulleen Park.
This suited the dry conditions during the first Division 1 game against the NFL, in which the SMJFL dominated throughout to win by 52 points.
But the heavens opened for the second match against a strong YVJFL team where some bigger bodies proved crucial in a hard-fought 35-point victory.
Tim says it was the team’s captain, St Kilda City junior Lachlan Harris, who came to the fore in the tougher conditions.
He says Lachlan’s fearless attack on the ball was the perfect case of leading by example.
“He’s got a leadership style that suits representative footy perfectly,” Tim says of Lachlan.
“They’re all self-motivated players, but he raises the bar every time he goes for the ball, so it’s as if his teammates have to outdo him the very next contest.”
Indeed, 13-year-old Lachlan sees himself as a natural leader of footballers, one who shows the way with his actions more so than words.
“You’ve just got to make sure you’re doing the same things as you’re telling everyone else to do, like going in that bit harder,” he says.
The SMJFL boys did exactly that in the wet against the YVJFL and Lachlan barely needed to reinforce the message on the field.
He says his own job as captain was made easier because the group gelled so well over 12 weeks of preparation for the carnival.
“They didn’t need to be told what to do; everyone knew their job,” Lachlan says.
It meant the captain’s pre-game advice was kept to a minimum: “It was pretty much to the coach’s message – everyone playing their own part for the team to succeed.”
Coach and captain working in unison: The first step on the path to team success.