Giants Under-17s take big step going undefeated
The top junior division has been a happy hunting ground for the Bathurst Giants. Whether that the one year as Under-16s or the past four as 17s, the Giants have basically owned the grade. Since the Under-18s grade moved to Sunday and became 16s/17s, the Giants have been formidable. Five consecutive minor premierships from 2017-2021, and only one hiccup on Grand Final day throughout those seasons.
With that success, you’d be excused for feeling shocked to hear that when coach Brad Broes sat down in the pre-season with assistant Peter Hunt, little did they know that the team would go through the whole season undefeated.
“It was a really pleasant surprise how well we did this season. I definitely wasn’t expecting an undefeated season, that’s for sure,” Broes said.
“I remember sitting down and thinking that we have a good chance to probably make it to the grand-final. Whether we win that I don’t know. We worked out the positions that the boys would play and thought that we actually had a really strong side.”
The Giants Under-17s side won nine from nine games and clinched the minor premiership in historic fashion. Unfortunately due to COVID restrictions, the season was cancelled and the team wasn’t able to play in the grand final. While Broes is ecstatic with what his side accomplished this year, he admits that he would have loved to have seen the side go all the way.
“It would have been really nice to send them out on a high,” he said.
“It’s just a shame we couldn’t do that. COVID hates everybody.”
Despite how the season ended, Broes couldn’t have been prouder at how his team played this year.
“If I’m honest, this season was probably the most fun I’ve had as a coach. They have all exceeded my expectations and they just make me so proud,” he said.
“Cooper Brien was our captain and leader. He was also an important part of the Giants’ first-grade side. Then there is Cooper Traves who was one that really stepped up this year to fill that hole in the midfield. He had his best performance in the last game when we travelled to Dubbo. He led from the word go.”
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the forward line this year. Calvin Windus was pegged down as our main guy in the forward line but unfortunately, I think he hurt his ACL early in the season. We then made Jenson Brown our main target. The number of goals he kicked I couldn’t tell you, but it was a fair few. In the back line, Daniel Belfanti was just amazing as fullback. I think in all though, everyone stepped up this year.”
The Giants boasted the competitions best attack and defence all season. Led by Brien (35 goals), Jenson (17), and Traves (13), the side scored an amazing 760 points in nine games. In defence, the Giants only allowed 158 points scored against them, 90 points less than second placed Orange Tigers.
Despite the team’s success this season, the Giants faced a few challenges along the way. None more so than playing numbers. Only five players across the team played all nine matches. Alexander Watson, Angus Warne, Hayden Goodsell, Sebastian Collins, and William Sloan.
“Numbers were a big challenge this year. Our last game we actually played Dubbo Junior AFL and we went with the bare minimum. We only had nine players. Guys were crook, guys were away, a couple were on stay-at-home orders.”
“I remember sweating the night before the match thinking that I couldn’t afford for anyone else to pull out. I messaged everyone and told them that unless it was serious, nobody was to pull out otherwise we would have had to forfeit. The boys and I had a talk earlier in the season about going undefeated and I was worried that this would be it.”
Looking ahead to next season, a few members of the Under-17s side will move into the senior grades. For Broes, seeing the juniors make the jump to senior football is a great feeling.
“I have been involved with the Giants Under-17s side for the last four years, two years as an assistant and the last two years as the coach. Seeing kids like Zac Yandle, Liam Cooke and Jordan Ashcroft that are regulars in the first-grade side is really good to see,” he said.
“We have about 10 top age kids and we are confident the majority of those are playing on in the seniors next year. I really want them too. They are all great kids, and they are going to get a lot out of it.”
“They are an amazing bunch of kids and I really hope every single one of them plays on next year.”