By Gary Stocks
The unmistakeable scent of finals has wafted across Charles Riley Reserve for a month now.
And with every advancing week the excitement and anticipation has grown exponentially. It’s the time of the year when you take the time to wander around the social hall, such as it is, and develop a sense of what this club has achieved.
That is probably more relevant this week, than in any other. With the O’Rourke Realty A-Grade and the Credent Financial Services A-Reserves playing in the preliminary final tomorrow, it is poignant to take a nostalgic stroll around club rooms.
Hopefully, before the curtain comes down on this season, there is another premiership photo to grace the wall. But whatever happens things will never be the same at Royal Chas Riley.
In the name of progress, the North Beach home will be bulldozed. The development and new facility works will begin next February, so the football club will enjoy its last few days in the place that has been home for so long.
It will be exciting when the new rooms are available in 2014, but there is also a sense of heartache. These rooms have defined us all for so long. It smells of success. Of blood and sweat. And mateship.
Tomorrow when our two senior teams run onto Richard Guelfi Reserve, they will be fighting for the chance to add one last chapter to the living history adorning that modest room Bill Duckworth has been the central figure in so much of the history which drips off the walls and he’s not done yet.
The A-Grade coaching legend will take his team in to confront minor premiers Trinity-Aquinas, who became unglued and lost by 11 goals to University last Saturday. They might have been the best team during the home and away rounds, but they will have some doubts.
They will also be under pressure. They know an inglorious exit, in straight sets, would be a wasted opportunity. And they know the Beach understands how to win big games.
North Beach, in a sense, goes in with a clear mind. Already they have won two cut-throat finals. This is merely another, albeit with a place in the grand final as a reward.
A couple of injuries have opened the door for Simon Pearce, winner of the A-Reserves medal for the fairest and best player in the competition, and Josh Stott, a State under-23 representative last year, to return to the seniors.
The club’s depth has been tested during the finals campaign. To date, it has more than adequately covered the absences, and there is no reason to believe it cannot happen again.
Of course, when the playing depth is tested, the chain reaction takes it to the level below so the A-Reserves will need to elevate players who figured in the preliminary final in the D1-Grade last week.
That has given Jamie Cosgrove, who won the medal in that grade, the opportunity to make his debut in the A-Reserves against North Fremantle, starting at 12.35pm.
Through the course of the season, Michael Pratt has needed to make adjustments weekly, through injury and promotion to the seniors, but they have been able to maintain their standards in the knowledge that regardless of personnel, the game plan holds up.
By Gary Stocks