By Gary Stocks
Regardless of how many times you get to a grand final, at whatever level, the week brings tension, excitement and anticipation.
Talk of WA Amateur Football League, and few have been to the big dance more often than Bill Duckworth. And he’s there again, ready for the season climax.
As A-grade coach of the Beach he took the club to 10 premierships, seven of them in succession at a time when the Beach was almost a permanent lock in for the competition’s showcase event.
A couple of years ago the former Essendon star and Norm Smith medallist took a step back from the senior role, had last season off to watch his sons play, before taking on the task of coaching the club’s Cabling Network Solutions D1-Grade.
With a mix of some of those stars who enjoyed success with Duckworth at A-Grade level, meshed in with some of the Beach’s developing talent, they will tackle arch rival Whitford in the grand final at Wanneroo Showgrounds tomorrow.
A little further south of that venue, another great story could unfold at Richard Guelfi Reserve when the Express Bins E2-Grade also compete in a grand final, against Fremantle CBC. And the emerging talent of the club will be on show when the Coast to Coast Imports Phil Scott Colts tackle CBC at Morris Buzzacott Reserve.
On Thursday night at training, that familiar hunched figure of Duckworth, hobbled around Percy Doyle Oval, casting a watchful eye over the final preparations. A gait that is the ‘trophy’ of the battles he fought at the highest level, he is no less passionate about the task tomorrow.
Premierships do not come without hard work, dedication and sacrifice at any level. It’s all relative.
Playing in a D1 premierships means as much to the 22 blokes who will represent North Beach tomorrow as it will to those who will be paraded in front of a massive audience, globally, in a couple of weeks from now at the MCG.
And breaking the news to players that they have missed selection is just as difficult.
As training went on around him, Duckworth stopped from time to time to have a quiet conversation with a player or two. It’s the toughest chat that a coach can have…’sorry son, but I’ve only got 22 spots and you’re going to miss out.’
Every coach who has been in that envidious position dreads the conversation, but it can’t be avoided. Life and footy can be brutal at times and individuals will be damaged. When they are part of a tight family within a community club, it is arguably tougher.
But once that bad news has been delivered, there is no option but to focus on the team that will represent the club. To concentrate on the game plan, the fundamentals that will bring success.
On Thursday night, at what has been North Beach’s temporary home for the last 12 months while Charles Riley Reserve underwent a facelift, there was a familiar feel about training. A few short, sharp drills, get the legs ticking over, the adrenaline pumping.
Emit some of that nervous energy. Take the edge off the boys.
Inside an hour and it was done.
Get organised for the team photo, scoff down a bowl of pasta and then wait for the team announcement. Until game day, that’s it.
The routine for the E2-Grade, was no different.
They, too, are excited. Understand the challenge they face, having lost to CBC by 20 goals in the second semi-final, but they know their best is good enough. They take some confidence into the clash, given the way they despatched Willetton last week.
Novak Smith, aka Jesus, might just be able to pull off a miracle.
Just as Duckworth had some tough calls to make at selection, so did the man who assumed the coaching mantle mid-season.
In his team are some North Beach stalwarts. Blokes whose affinity for the club flows through their veins. He has BA and Pana, Missi, Mirra and Pauly Cav. Kano is there too and the spirit of North Beach might just carry them over the line.
The Phil Scott Colts – indeed the colts squad more broadly – has had a season to remember. Last night they trained in the northern half of the ground, they moved the ball with skill and purpose around every drill.
The know a grand final berth is at stake at Morris Buzzacott, lost to CBC a fortnight ago, but are better prepared this time around. Craig Dalton had them humming and like Duckworth and Smith he also had some selection posers this week.
They are an exciting bunch of youngsters. Some genuine class in this team. The future is very much in the present and it will be worth traversing the city, covering the Ks, to get a piece of the action at all three venues.
Cabling Network Solutions D1-Grade
North Beach v Whitford, Wanneroo Showgrounds, 2.30pm
Express Bins E2-Grade
Fremantle CBC v North Beach, Richard Guelfi Reserve, 10.50am
Coast to Coast Imports Phil Scott Colts
Fremantle CBC v North Beach, Morris Buzzacott Reserve, 10.40am.