OVER 600 young Australian football fanatics had a great time on the South Coast last weekend when they participated in the fifth annual AFL junior challenge. Last year it was the big wet, this year it was the big wind, but on neither occasion were these talented youngsters deterred, and a great display of AFL was the result.
In the boys division, teams were participating in under 12, 14 and 16 age groups, while the girls were also catered for with four teams taking each other on in a round-robin format.
The girls youth final was played on Saturday night at West Street Oval, with the Sydney invitation team accounting for a determined Central Coast.
The Sydney team were all class, and held off a tiring opponent, backing up from a semi-final 30 minutes earlier.
The boys winners were Newcastle in the 16s, Illawarra in the 14s and Sapphire Coast in the 12s.
Shoalhaven were represented in each age group, but were only able to make the semi-finals in under 14s, where they held the lead until the last quarter, but were overrun.
The matches started on Friday night at Artie Smith and West Street ovals under lights, with the wind playing havoc.
These were to be the closest contests of the weekend, with teams separated by only a matter of points.
These games also produced a draw, with the Shoalhaven under 16s clinging on for a draw against Illawarra.
Given the conditions, the standard of matches were incredibly good.
Saturday saw the Newcastle combinations start to show their strength with wins in the under 16s over Central Coast and the local boys, who tried hard but were outgunned.
These wins propelled them to the top of that division, and it was evident that Central Coast would be the team to beat.
They also finished in the top four in the other age groups, and their three teams were to go on to play in the finals.
Sunday’s semi-finals saw the class really rise to the top, and the finals were then to be decided at midday.
Again, because of the persistent winds, the players’ skills were under great pressure, but they were able to adapt well to the conditions, and some great games were witnessed.
Newcastle ran away with the under 16s, winning 12.15 (87) to 2.0 (12) over Illawarra, displaying some great teamwork and highly skilled individuals in their ranks.
Illawarra and Sapphire won their finals over their Newcastle counterparts.
Competition co-ordinator John Dyball said he was thrilled at the response from regions in supporting this carnival, and looks forward to putting on a bigger and better show next year.
He congratulated local clubs for their assistance in managing venues and looking after the visitors, who were equally thrilled to be able to play at our local AFL venues.