By Gary Stocks
We’re only three weeks into a new season, but already the top half of the A-Grade West Australian Amateur Football League ladder is starting to take shape, every victory becoming precious.
With one win from the first three rounds – a thriller against Kalamunda last Saturday – the O’Rourke Realty North Beach combination is keen to get on a roll.
Tomorrow the challenge comes against West Coast, a club that has made a bright start to the year, knocking over the highly-regarded Wesley-Curtin last Saturday. The Coasters are in fourth position with two wins and the Beach is sitting in eight place.
So this week’s match, although relatively early in the season, is not insignificant. Coaches hate the “eight point” game analogy, but that’s what we have here. If the Beach is to push inside the top five and go on to qualify for finals, this would be seen as a pivotal match.
It’s not quite to the point of being cut-throat, but it is a big game for both clubs.
West Coast has some good young talent and represents a solid challenge, but the Beach is ready for them and it should be an absorbing battle.
North Beach has undergone a rapid transformation and probably boasts the youngest senior list in the competition. That’s exciting and there is certainly a mood of optimism permeating through the club.
In round one there were five players who debuted, promoted from last year’s colts grand final team. Those five youngsters remain in the team and are growing with every outing.
Tom DeCourtenay missed last week because of illness, but he returns to the team to replace veteran Anthony “Chookah” Ingham, who will return to the A-Reserves.
This team will build throughout the season, as the young group becomes increasingly accustomed and comfortable with the tempo of senior football. As a mark of the transition in the squad, the only remaining premiership player from the team that triumphed in 2010, playing tomorrow, is captain Beau Witheridge.
David Hynes and his team will take confidence and belief away from the victory against Kalamunda – recovering from a 35-point deficit in the third quarter to win by five points – and will take that momentum into this contest.
While there have been ebbs and flows in the A-Grade campaign, the Credent Financial Services A-Reserves have taken all before them. Undefeated in the opening three rounds, this team is playing with great confidence and poise – a near perfect mix of experience and youth.
A-Grade premiership players Ben Wilson, Ingham and Steve Bandy, who will play his first game of the season, are intertwined with a cluster of players who were part of that exciting season in the A-Colts last year.
They should have the class to win against West Coast, but this game is as much about attitude as it is ability and coach Scott Holbrook, in conjunction with his off-sider, Greg Pires, will guard against complacency.
The Coast to Coast Imports Phil Scott Colts started the season with a tough first-up challenge against University, but have won their past two matches and the team is starting to take shape.
They had the depth to cover for an alarming exodus of players who headed south for a concert last weekend and still accounted for Kalamunda. Some of the players elevated from the Brett Jones Colts to cover for those absences performed strongly and have retained their positions.
Opportunity is a wonderful tool and now some who might have considered themselves regulars in the Phil Scott team will need to produce the required form to force their way back.
The lower grade senior teams have started the season with unblemished records, with the Cabling Network Solutions D1-Grade and the Hybrid Linings D1-Reserves exploding out of the blocks with convincing wins each week.
Again, those teams have benefitted from the injection of youth and with some seniority on-field – and vast experience off it, through coaches Bill Duckworth, in particular, and Daniel Wheeler – the club is in a solid position.
The Express Bins E1-Grade have also taken all before them in the opening three rounds, but face arguably their sternest test against Yanchep tomorrow.
O’Rourke Realty A-Grade
West Coast v North Beach, City Beach Oval, 2.30pm
Credent Financial Services A-Reserves
West Coast v North Beach, City Beach Oval, 12.35pm
Coast to Coast Imports Phil Scott Colts
West Coast v North Beach, City Beach Oval, 10.40am
Cabling Network Solutions D1-Grade
North Beach v University, Charles Riley Reserve, 2.30pm
Hybrid Linings D1-Reserves
North Beach v University, Charles Riley Reserve, 12.35pm
Redhill Brett Jones Colts
North Beach v University, Charles Riley Reserve, 10.40am
Express Bins E1-Grade
Yanchep v North Beach, Oldham Reserve, 2.30pm