By Ben Pollard
On paper, it might have been the biggest boilover of the SMJFL season.
But to Brendan Childs, coach of East Sandringham’s Under 15 Division 1 premiership team, the Zebras’ stunning 53-point win on Sunday against the previously undefeated Cheltenham was no surprise.
“I knew we’d win. I thought we’d win by four or five goals, based on our game plan and the players we had back in the team,” he said.
This was despite Cheltenham handing East Sandy three defeats during the Panthers’ perfect regular season – two by greater than 11 goals.
Childs said around “four or five top-line players” were regularly missing in 2012 due to school football commitments, only returning at the pointy end of the season.
“We always knew we could beat them, so it was just about making sure the boys were switched on,” he said.
The boys were definitely switched on.
East Sandy used a strong tailwind at Highett Reserve, as well as class and toughness in the middle, to scoot away to a 20-point lead at quarter-time. Chelt hadn’t scored and hardly looked like doing so.
At this time, one certain General Manager remarked it would be interesting to see if the Panthers could use the wind to similar effect in the second term.
The answer came soon enough. By halftime, the Zebras had added another three goals to Cheltenham’s two behinds.
East Sandy’s midfield was well on top and its key marking targets were grabbing everything that came their way.
Childs thinks several of his big boys could one day play in the AFL, naming Corey Rich, Tom Wilson and Nick Pirrie as bright prospects. Pirrie, in particular, clunked several contested marks as the Zebras ran riot in the third quarter.
But it all started in the midfield. The classy Jordan Matera racked up possessions, kicked two goals and took home the best-on-ground medal. Childs hinted at taking some of the credit for Matera’s on-field deeds: “He’s my stepson as well, so he has to do what I tell him.”
Childs also praised the work of the skilful George Callil: “If you’re a talent scout, you’d be pencilling him in straight away – he’s just a freak.”
For the majority of the group, this victory completed back-to-back premierships after success in the Under 14s last year.
With the amount of talent at their disposal, one suspects the Zebras might be tasting even more success in future.