By Ben Pollard
Vic Metro secured the Youth Girls National Championships title with a gritty grand final win over Western Australia in Shepparton last Friday.
Trailing by two points at halftime, the Metro team – featuring South Melbourne’s Isabel Huntington – rallied in the third quarter, booting three goals to nil to set up the 15-point victory.
For Vic Metro coach Paul Groves, it was all about his girls’ professional effort under pressure.
“(At halftime) we just went back to our motto for the week, which was all really about effort and saying that it doesn’t take talent to give effort,” he said.
“I think they just believed in themselves and that our game plan would hold up for the whole game.”
The game plan did indeed hold up. The goal was to stop WA’s speed on the outside of the contest and Metro was successful in turning the game into a congested slog.
Some of the stars of the win were Whitehorse’s Katherine Smith, St Damians girl Louise Stephenson and Rebecca Privitelli from Kew Rovers, who scored four crucial majors.
Beaconsfield’s Ellie Blackburn – named Player of the Tournament – also capped off her carnival with a brilliant showing for Metro in the decider.
The Metro girls conceded just one goal in three comfortable victories over Queensland, NSW/ACT and SA/NT leading in to Friday’s grand final.
Huntington, the SMJFL’s representative in the Vic Metro squad, starred in the 46-point win over Queensland. Her run and raking left-foot kick sliced the Sunshine Staters to shreds.
Groves said given Huntington’s relatively young age (14), she may have tired towards the end of a testing week, but still stood up when he needed her in the grand final.
“At the end of the game when you’re a couple of goals clear, you look to one or two of your better players to sit behind the footy (to help protect the lead) and she was the first or second girl I called on,” he said.
“It shows the kind of esteem she’s held in, in my eyes.”
Groves was thrilled with the exposure the Championships gained through Facebook, Twitter and online streaming of the matches.
“I really just want to get as many people as possible aware that girls’ footy is out there and that these girls are super talented and they can actually play the game.”
Look out, boys.