Eagles soar to Shoalhaven success
AFL Central West, following a final’s defeat in 2018 have gone one better at this year’s Shoalhaven Junior Carnival. The Luke Le Page coached side suffered one defeat and three victories to top the carnival which included Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Sapphire Coast representative sides. The side was led by significant performances from Rhiani Rozga, Teagan Germech, Elizabeth Gibson and Molly Mann who starred across the carnival. Rozga, in particular, booted 8 goals in four matches, equating to over half of her sides’ majors for the carnival. The final itself, a thrilling back-and-forth contest between the Central West and Illawarra finished 3.1.19-1.4.10 for a 9-point AFLCW victory.
The Youth Girls made their way into the decider with victories over Shoalhaven and Sapphire Coast. Although they stumbled against Illawarra in the group stage – suffering a two-point defeat, the girls had a chance for redemption. The match went to script early, with Rozga kicking an early goal inside the opening minutes however Illawarra worked themselves into the contest, returned serve with a major of their own and led at the first break by a solitary point.
In a low scoring, defensive encounter, neither team were able to take advantage of their inside-50 entries. When Grace McRae found her range, the Eagles lifted, took back the lead and held onto it at the main break. With a four-point buffer at half time, and some inspired words from the coach, the girls locked the half back line down and stopped every Illawarra attack. Teagan Germech was next to get in on the action with a long goal to extend the margin and from there, although pressed, the girls held firm.
No scores were added in the final stanza with the Eagles defence standing tall as the Illawarra side pushed hard through the middle. Post-match, Luke Le Page acknowledged the quality within the Central West system and praised the girl’s efforts. “The success of our Youth Girls program, at the Shoalhaven carnival is a clear indicator that the skill level of our competition is as strong as anywhere. Obviously we need an increase in participation but we have an extremely strong foundation to build upon.”
Considering the side was designed to develop, rather than contend this season, the result is somewhat surprising. Elite talents Molly Mann and Elizabeth Gibson controlled their zones and were important to the team’s success. “Molly and Elizabeth are two of our most experienced and skilled players. They both read the ball exceptionally well and I had complete confidence in their ability to turn defence into attack.”
#Champions AFL CW 3.1.19Illawarra 1.4.10Congratulations girls
Moving forward, consistency and developing greater game awareness within the structure will be a key focus for the team. This will set the girls up for success and prepare them for their time in the Women’s squad. “With the inclusion of a senior women’s game, it gives our junior girls a long term goal to strive for. The plan moving forward will be to establish consistency across the squad and expand our game plan to ensure that we remain at the top of our game.”
When asked about Rozga, arguably the standout player of the carnival, Le Page was full of praise for the developing star. “Our forward structure is built completely around Rhiani. Her ability to win the ball at ground level and beat defenders with her footwork is pivotal to our goal scoring chances.” Rozga came into the carnival with 21 majors in 5 AFL CW matches and enhanced her reputation with a fantastic carnival.
In the other grades, the Under-13s, Under-15s, and Under-17s battled admirably however were beaten in all games by their coastal opponents.
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