By Ben Pollard
The SMJFL’s Under 14 interleague representatives have some of the best kicking skills Steve Walton has seen in a junior group.
As a result, Steve says his job as Under 14 head coach at the AFL Victoria Metropolitan Junior Championships has been “very easy”.
“I don’t have to give them much instruction on game day,” Steve says.
“It’s really just about moving the ball quickly, and we’ve also built a pretty solid defence in there.”
While the Division 1 boys missed their grand final on percentage, the Division 2 team will play for glory this Saturday having won all three preliminary games.
Those kicking skills have come in handy – the Division 2 boys’ success has been earned in conditions that Steve labels “every parent’s nightmare”.
Their first victory, over the Eastern FL, came amid blanketing fog on a chilly night at Moorleigh Reserve.
The second win, against the Western Region FL, was hard-fought in a centre square mud pit on the same ground.
Both games required precise skills and footballing maturity in trying conditions.
“They handled it well… I think it was good for their development,” Steve says.
“To their credit, they showed a lot of maturity; I never heard them complain… But you’d love to play on the MCG every week, wouldn’t you?”
It may not be the home of football, but Steve says Craigieburn’s Highgate Reserve will present a quality surface for Saturday’s grand final.
But, true to form, the elements will likely intervene again.
“The only problem with the ground is it’s very windy,” Steve says.
“We’re going to have to move the ball quick with the wind and maybe slow it down a little bit when we’re kicking into the wind.”
It’s going to be another test of those kicking skills, particularly in the heat of a big game against the SMJFL’s traditional rival, the Yarra JFL.
“They’re very strong; we’ve been in good competition with them for the last three or four years in the interleague,” Steve says.
“They’ve beaten us more often (than we’ve beaten them), so it’d be good to get one up on them.”
To do so, the SMJFL will need big performances from its key players.
Steve points to Prahran’s Oscar Don and East Malvern’s Xavier Jordan as two boys who have been instrumental in the team’s winning run.
“Oscar’s a ruckman and Xavier’s a key-position defender, and he’s been named captain already this week… We don’t name captains normally,” Steve says.
“Those two have shone; they’ve done very well.”
Others to have featured in the SMJFL’s best are Murrumbeena’s Nick Baltas, East Malvern’s Tom Soust and St Peters’ Kyle Sinclair, while Ajax’s Jordan Cohen has booted six goals in the three games.
Steve says he’s “absolutely” confident they can bring home the trophy, but would be happy to simply emulate a recent famous example of staying undefeated.
“You’re always confident in a two-horse race, so we’ll be Black Caviar – even if we win by a nose, we still win.”