The Bendigo Bank Cairns Lions U17 team held off a fast finishing Riddell Districts Football League (RDFL) on Sunday at Diggers Rest to claim Cairns second victory ever in Victoria as part of the Victoria Challenge program.
The game against RDFL was a strong response to their first game against Ballarat Football League (BFL) on Friday where the far northerners were out played by a cleaner and more desperate team in Ballarat.
Game one at the historic City Oval in Ballarat started at a frantic pace with neither side gaining an early ascendency, the hosts taking a narrow lead into the first break.
After quarter time the consistent pressure and cleaner ball handling by the Ballarat team saw them take advantage of the Lions occasional lapses which allowed the home team to score heavily in short periods of time.
Cairns fought the game out kicking five goals in hurry in the final term but the margin was too great with Ballarat running out 44 point victors. Ballarat’s Sam Glover was awarded best afield and Josh Barnett was awarded a BFL football jumper for best Cairns player. Josh was well supported by Mitch Koch, Dylan McConachy and Rhys Bridge.
After a couple days of reflection, licking wounds, and education, including a talk from former Essendon champion, and current Eastern Ranges TAC Cup coach, Darren Bewick, it was time to regroup
Keen to prove a point, the Lions ventured to Diggers Rest to play RDFL with a renewed enthusiasm and a valuable learning experience under the belt. Cairns started game two strongly and aggressively, and showed a definite appetite for hard work, taking a 4 goal lead into the first break. Cairns continued their good work in the 2nd quarter going into the main break with a 27 point lead. Playing quality opposition the game was still well beyond secure.
Riddell Districts came out with vigour in the second half, narrowing the gap against a tiring Cairns team and giving themselves a chance of taking the game coming home with the breeze in last term. In a frantic final quarter RDFL missed opportunities to pinch the win late in the game while Cairns was able to capitalize on their few opportunities better.
Showing courage Cairns was able to hold onto a nail biting 5 point victory. Mitch Koch was awarded best afield for Cairns by the RDFL staff and Rhys Bridge was awarded the best afield medal from the umpires. RDFL’s Roger Allan was awarded best for the hosts.
The Victoria Challenge trip was a valuable development exercise for our local Cairns players and a steep learning curve. One of the most pleasing things about the trip was to see players respond and grow from the first game to the second, with reputations on the line.
Cairns players do not have the opportunity to be exposed to this calibre of football on a regular basis and the more games local youth players play at that level the better and quicker our players will develop. AFL Cairns has continued to support this program strongly and should be acknowledged for their commitment to helping develop local youth players.
Through this program strong relationships have been formed with the host leagues in recent years, which will now see BFL and RDFL combine forces to take a team to the Far North in July, bringing quality football content to our region.
Last year also saw Geelong College reciprocate with a trip to Cairns, bringing quality football to the far north.
Final Score Game 1
Ballarat FL 15.9.99 def Cairns Lions 8.7.55
Goals: Josh Barnett 3, Clinton Chaffey 2, James Philip 1, David Skeene 1, Mitch Koch 1
Best: Josh Barnett, Dylan McConachy, Mitch Koch, Rhys Bridge, Clinton Chaffey
Final Score Game 2:
Cairns 10.6.66 def RDFL 8.13.61
Goals: Dylan McConachy 3, Corey Flint 3, Jake Macey 1, Mitch Koch 1, Tim Charlesworth 1, Mitch Bohm
Best: Mitch Koch, Rhys Bridge, Brady Riesenweber, Jake Macey, Dylan McConachy, Cuan Fraser, Clinton Chaffey