What an amazing year of football! The 2016 season saw a combined squad of 13 and 14 year old boys, forming an Under 14 team for Maleny Rangers FC, meaning that 12 of our players competed a year above their birth age. Of our original 18 registered players, 16 continued throughout the season, always playing strong games, giving their heart, soul and feet to the game!!
The Under 14 squad was faced with another big challenge at the beginning of the season: they were without a Coach. As an interim measure I began coaching the boys, having never played soccer before in my life, but knowing a little bit about how children learn, and also relying on the existing high level of skill of many of the ongoing players. I ended up staying on as the Coach, which has been a wonderful experience indeed! Assistance from Manager (and husband) Andy, and advising coaches Adam and Dave, was very welcome.
Our team also had a couple of new players to the code, notably Alec, our magnificent goalie, who did a fantastic job and is a natural at keeping the ball out of the net. (Alec was awarded the Best Goalkeeper club award for his work.) And Jasper returned to the game after several year’s absence, so the competition was very different and the rules of off side etc all new to him. But he was a quick learner, impressing everyone with some clear decision making about protecting the goal, often exhibiting his signature ‘cycling in the air’ move! On field, some key players emerged as natural forwards, Ben L, Ben S, Max and Flynn were our key strikers and within minutes of some of our games, we would see great passing and clear communication, which regularly allowed Maleny to score. These boys would implement the skills taught in training, communicate well and get the ball into spaces with excellent passing and clear shots at goal. Ben L could outrun most other boys and had excellent shot placement. He scored 29 goals in the season, making him our top scorer. Ben S would use his speed and some fancy foot work to control the ball and get past defenders. Flynn would use his amazing step over moves to outmanoeuvre and would never miss an opportunity to strike. And Max would get past them with speed, tenacity and fancy foot work. But strikers don’t get there without backup from the mid fielders. Jeremy would always be in the right position to take a pass. Charlie, Elliot, Jacob, Rohan and Ziggy were always there for support to players, moving between attack and defence positions constantly.
These boys demonstrated good sportsmanship, clear communication and a high level of flexibility in field position placement. They would use the field size to their advantage, and would confidently maintain position and possession, and use good ball skills to take the play further forward. If the ball happened to get past our forwards and mids, then it was up to the defenders! In defence we had Matthew, who could easily clear the ball from the opposition’s goal and give it back to our forwards. Matthew could run down attackers and take back possession of the ball. Oliver could boot it right up field for our strikers. Nik who would weave and dance the ball back into possession for some great passing and JJ, our team captain, who would rather die than let a ball get past him. JJ was the player who was everywhere at once on the field. He could read play exceptionally well and be there to take the ball back or pass it to a striker. As team captain, he has been a clear role model: supportive and encouraging to all players.
So we have had a great team! A team, in fact, who despite (or perhaps in spite of) playing up a year level and having an inexperienced coach, made it through to the GRAND FINALS.
In the upcoming games to the finals, we were the first team to beat Cooroora, a team who had flogged us on more than one occasion and who were physically bigger than most of our boys and certainly believed themselves to be superior. The boys beat Cooroora for a number of reasons: firstly, their skills had improved and they continuously played as a team; secondly, the boys always, throughout the season, held their heads high, never losing heart or lowering themselves to a level of insulting others or becoming negative which causes field play to fall apart; and lastly, because we played better football that day!!
This win saw us into the prelims, where we beat NYU in a heart stopping penalty shoot out (one of the more nerve racking days of my life!!) (I was so glad for all that kicking practise we had been doing throughout the season.) Again we faced Cooroora in the grand finals. Regardless of the outcome of this match we were already winners!! The boys had faced challenge after challenge on the field and risen to overcome each and every obstacle. With a large squad of players and therefore several subs, field play often changed, and yet the boys continued to play as a complete team. Cooroora may have won on paper that day, but the Under 14 MRFC players won in every other way.
Well done boys on a magnificent season. Be proud of your successes and how well you contributed to a fantastic season of football. 16 boys as one team!!! Thank you for the opportunity to be your Coach and I look forward to seeing you all back for the 2017 season. Our next season will see assistance from some expert coaches who will be better able to teach explicit skills and game play. Sign on happens in January, so check out the website for details. See you all soon!!