The weekend past was another weekend of great achievement for AFL Sapphire Coast as they sent an under 12’s, under 14.5’s, under 17’s and two youth girls teams to Nowra/Bomaderry to participate in the Shoalhaven Junior Carnival.

The Sapphire Coast came painfully close to dominating the carnival with three teams in grand finals come the final day of action although the Illawarra were too strong in the under 12’s and under 17’s, whilst the Central West reversed 2016’s result besting the Sapphire Coast in the youth girls division.

“Historically at the carnival we’ve done really well, it’s a credit to the clubs and the young players down here rising to the occasion,” SCAFL coordinator Jarrod Moore said.

In the under 12 division the Sapphire Coast started the carnival with a masterful display holding the Shoalhaven scoreless in a 54 point win. Matthew O’meara was the star with 4 goals whilst the side got key contributions from Campbell Moresi, Tasman Simons and Jemma Pollock. The start of day two saw a missed opportunity with the Sapphire being unable to capitalise mid way through the fourth quarter and take the lead before falling by 16 points to the Illawarra. The Giant’s Sam Seath and Pambula’s Will Kellar shone brightest against the mighty Illawarra.

In their final pool game, the Sapphire got good contributions from all 22 players as they defeated Central West by 32 point to take confidence into Sunday’s final. In the final versus the Illawarra, the Sapphire backline lead by Jai Van Camp held strong for four quarters although the side struggled to move the ball forward with the Illawarra coming out four goal winners. The Sapphire got good contributions from all players throughout the carnival although it was Jemma Pollock named by Coach Luke Moresi who was the standout for the weekend.

Moore heaped praise on the under 12s, who went down to the Illawarra in the final to finish second.

“Looking at their games, it was a really good all-round performance, five or six players were lifting in each game, but there were no real standouts,” he said.

In the under 14.5 division the Sapphire Coast started the carnival slowly against eventual winner the Shoalhaven and although strong performances from Billy Williams, Ryan Holdsworth and Thomas Hodge the Sapphire went down by 49 points. The Sapphire needed a win against the Illawarra on day two to remain in the hunt for a finals birth although a strong showing from the Illawarra saw the Storm run out five goal winners. Rocco Lagana and Jonty Dwyer provided the side with good run out of the ruck and midfield whilst Jonathan Harkins-McMahon continued his fine club form off half back for the side.

With two losses against the Illawarra and Shoalhaven the 14.5’s were playing for pride against the Central West in their final pool game and consolation final. With the side being made up of a number of bottom age players the Stingrays were able to improve on each game that they contested over the weekend. With this improvement the Sapphire bested Central West by 18 points in their final pool game with Merimbula’s Charlie Buckingham snagging two majors and was well supported in midfield by William Seach. The consolation final saw the Stingrays produce their best half of football for the entire carnival. After a slow start by both teams, the Stingrays put on a six goal second half to claim a 30 point win with all players contributing in the big win.

“The under 14.5’s were big improvers of the carnival with the boys playing their best football towards the back end of the carnival after a tough start to finish third,” Moore said.

With a number of the group of under 17’s players going for four straight carnival wins the confidence was high in the camp and the teams confidence rose more with a dominant win against the Shoalhaven on night one of the carnival with a 60 point win. The side received two goals each from Merimbula’s Max Geaghan and Doug Stubbs and Pambula’s Kynan Baker. If not for inaccurate kicking with a 1.8 first quarter the margin could have been greater. Day two started well for the Sapphire leading the Illawarra by two goals at half time, although an eight goal to one second half saw the Illawarra to strong by 32 points. The Sapphire saw strong performance from Will Regan, Finley Cooke through the midfield and Angus Tarpey up forward.

A win was required in their final game against the Central West to make the final and the Sapphire boys didn’t disappoint leading by 26 points at the first change and 59 points at the final siren. Merimbula’s Billy Stubb’s starred in this fixture with Pambula’s hard nut Declan Simonson winning plenty of contested ball in the middle. The side was confident that a four quarter performance would see them overturn their pool loss to the Illawarra and the Stingray’s looked on course to put in a four quarter performance, down by one point at half time although like in their pool game the Illawarra put on four goals to one to claim a 16 point win. Angus Tarpey was the key man up forward kicking four goals whilst Will Regan showed why he was named best on by the players in the senior representative fixture.

“The boy’s had another great carnival showing that they can play some outstanding football. A couple of lapses was unfortunately all it took for the Illawarra to capitalise although we are all proud of how the boys handled themselves for the entire weekend,” Moore added.

With the rise of female football in the area, the Sapphire Coast was able to enter two teams into the youth Girls division in 2017 with a North and South team taking the field. Friday night saw the North take on Central West with the ‘westies’ taking the field with a highly competitive experienced side. Central West claimed a 28 point win against the North with new comers Lara Stephens and Poppy Logue playing impressive games for the Sapphire. The South claimed a 6 point win against the Illawarra in game one although the match was almost derailed with the lights suddenly going out early in the fourth quarter. Eden’s trio of Bianca Findlay, Anna Crawford and Alexis Watson all played well for the South.

Day two saw the same results for the two sides although in reverse with the South falling to the Central West by 57 points with Tyra-Lee Palmer kicking the first against the Central West for the weekend. The North were too good for the Illawarra running out 20 point winners with Kristelle Westbrook and Bermagui’s Katlyn Scott and Grace Gowing dominating for the Stingray’s. The final game of day 2 saw the South take on the North in the battle for bragging rights. The North were far too strong for the South claiming a 56 point win with Lara Stephens kicking 4, Grace Gowing 3, Zalie Betts and Katlyn Scott 2 and Mariah Tiedt 1. Great sportsmanship was shown in the match.

Day three saw the Sapphire take on the Illawarra and central West with the teams combining to take on the Central West in the final. The Illawarra claimed their first win of the carnival against an under strength Sapphire, whilst the Central West were too strong against a tired Sapphire squad who were asked to play multiple games across the weekend claiming a 48 point win. The Sapphire backline held strong under constant attack with Mikayla Shaw and Maddison Thornton playing their best games of the weekend.

“Unfortunately we had a few late withdrawals, but a lot of the girls played for both teams and I think it’s a testament to their great sportsmanship and character, backing up,” Moore said.

“They were buggered by the end of the carnival, but had joined forces and were walking around as one big team of 30 players.”