By Gary Stocks
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Late in the pre-season last year two young blokes walked in unannounced to a training session at Charles Riley Reserve. One of them was former colt Jordan Veitch, a talented young man from Margaret River, whose season – and some thought possibly his association with the club – had ended a couple of years earlier because of an ankle injury.
With him was a big, athletic-looking bloke from Murray Bridge in South Australia. Long, jet black hair tied back, a horse shoe noise ring hanging from a piercing. He looked to be a bit of a contradiction.
The first assessment was that he had an awkward kicking action, but it seemed to hit the target. Was good overhead, took the ball at its highest point. Looked to be a young bloke with some potential, albeit quite green. Like a gangly colt.
He started the season in the club’s D1 Grade – the thirds – under the tutelage of Bill Duckworth. It wasn’t long before Duckworth was throwing him up as someone who should be promoted. And so he was elevated to the A-reserves.
As soon as he started training with the senior squad, coach David Hynes’ interest piqued. He had been intrigued by the youngster when he first arrived and saw plenty to like. Within a couple of weeks the young ruckman was playing senior footy.
A few weeks ago, that unheralded young bloke earned selection in the WA Amateurs West Coast Eagles under-23 team. And last Saturday, after a carnival in Tasmania, Kieren Yakas earned all-Australian selection – one of six players in the WA team to win that distinction.
He is often out-sized in ruck contests in the A-Grade competition and doubtless he faced a similar situation in the interstate championships. But he relishes a challenge, the more work he’s asked to do, the better he plays. And he simply continues to develop.
All-Australian honours were richly deserved, but it won’t change the big Yak. He’ll still rock up to the footy with his cool, black wide-brimmed hat, and a smile just as broad. He’ll look like he’s just finished jamming at a local nightclub, but he won’t have a lot to say.
While Yakas earned the high individual accolade, the other North Beach representative in the carnival, Christian Bottechia was also a strong contributor.
Bottechia played forward and carried his good club form into the interstate arena.
Sadly, the third North Beach player named in the initial WA squad, midfielder Sam Lamont, injured an ankle in the dying minutes of the game against Kelmscott and could not make the trip.
And Veitch, who returned for pre-season this year, hurt his shoulder early in the practice matches and has not been able to play this year. He is a talented and quality young man, so hopefully his affiliation with the Beach can be rekindled.