By Gary Stocks
The coach was flighty…the players fidgety. A sense that they all wanted to get on with it, permeated the air.
As they assembled before training last night, just inside the boundary at Percy Doyle Oval, there was a palpable perception that it was time to crank things up a cog or two.
This, David Hynes suggested, was what it was all about. The reason for the hard slog in summer, why every week North Beach had sought improvement. It’s what five clubs, who had already wound up their campaigns, had hoped to achieve.
It’s finals time! But rather than reaching the end of the season, the Beach has reached a fork in the road. One direction presents the shortest journey to the pinnacle of the A-Grade competition, the other a tougher journey.
The first obstacle in that road to ultimate success is Wesley Curtin, an accomplished outfit for sure, but one that can be conquered. Play our brand of footy and we are one win closer to the dream.
After a short briefing from Hynes, the players ventured off on their warm-up. For about 20 minutes they prepared themselves for the session ahead and when they completed their preliminaries, to jog back to the assembled coaches, they stopped. Suddenly.
Not sure who called them to a halt, but fair chance it was co-captains Beau Witheridge and/or Anthony “Chook” Ingham. Couldn’t hear what was said either, but again the smart money would be that the message focused on the moment we had reached.
North Beach is accustomed to finals footy, though this a little different.
For 16 years and 10 premierships it was Bill Duckworth barking the instructions. And usually preparations were completed in front of the modest Charles Riley Reserve facility. Sadly, that Old Girl got knocked over a few weeks ago and Percy Doyle has become a temporary home.
So it was a little foreign to be at a different venue, but the senior squad enjoyed the occasion.
Training was a little off-key to start, perhaps a little nervous tension with places in the O’Rourke Realty A-Grade team on the line. Four regular senior players had been rested against Swan Athletic in the last qualifying round, with nothing at stake.
Most of them were on track, so you couldn’t blame those who have been on the fringe of the team for having their minds drift temporarily to think of themselves.
After a false start with a full-ground skill drill, and a quick jolt from Hynes, the players found rhythm and concentration. They were singing in unison.
Hynes let it roll, then broke the squad into their relevant lines for some specific work. Nothing too strenuous there, just getting the mind thinking about the systems in respective areas of responsibility . Backs worked on defensive traits, mids locked into their stoppage requirements and forwards looked at plotting the most efficient way to kick a winning score.
That done, Hynes called the squad in again. Some quick touch work and the night was done. At least on the track.
The match committee then assembled in the visitors changerooms. It was always going to take a while and by the time they emerged, the cleaning lady had been through, chairs had been locked away, eskies packed into the shed.
Well, not quite. But there was a lengthy deliberation.
In the end there were five changes to a team that won comfortably a week earlier. There were some tough calls, some unlucky players. Now it is time for those granted the opportunity to prove they are worthy.
That time will come at South Oval, Curtin at 2.30pm tomorrow.
The day will start earlier with the Nuchange Phil Scott Colts opening the day. One of the “sacrifices” that had to be made in seeking an alternative training venue, is the club is somewhat fractured. The colts train at an alternate venue, so it was not possible to bring the club together on finals eve.
But the colts earned their finals position with a remarkable climax, coming from a game and 22 percent behind Wesley Curtin to get their chance. They are in form, in good shape and if they can carry the momentum of the past six or seven weeks into the finals series, anything is possible.
No one will want to play them.
After a slow start to the season they have finished as the form team in the competition and we look forward to the carnage they are capable of reaping over the next month.
O’Rourke Realty A-Grade Qualifying Final
Wesley Curtin v North Beach, 2.30pm South Oval, Curtin University
Nuchange Phil Scott Colts Elimination Final
Fremantle CBC v North Beach, 10.45am South Oval, Curtin University