The NFL’s Under-15 girls created history by winning the 2017 AFL Victoria Metro Junior Championships Division 1 premiership.
The girls upset the Yarra Junior Football League 6.4 (40) to 4.6 (30) in the grand final at Vermont Reserve on Saturday to claim the league’s first flag at the Championships under the NFL banner.
NFL representative coach Chyloe Kurdas said the win was evidence that hard work pays off.
“It was a good example that if you do all your work and do all your preparation really well, in lots of ways you have what you need on match-day,” Kurdas said.
After falling to the YJFL by 44 points in Round 1 of the Championships, the girls bounced back in the decider to claim the upset win.
With scores level at half-time, the NFL held off a determined YJFL challenge in the third term and managed to keep the scores tied at the last change.
The NFL then took the ascendancy early in the last quarter and managed to hold sway in a tense finish, with a last-minute goal securing the 10-point win
Kurdas was full of praise for her young side, which contained as many as 14 bottom-aged players, and said the representative program had been a success, regardless of yesterday’s result.
“My ultimate goal for this program was helping the girls take on and develop the elite habits you are going to need if you want to be successful to stay in the high-performance pathway and maybe play AFLW in the future,” she said.
“We never positioned this game as a grand final. I didn’t even utter the words until yesterday and I only said them a couple of times. We talked about it as the fourth game and the fourth opportunity to continue to apply what we’ve learned.
“It was a rare opportunity in this setting to do a pre-test and a post-test. We played Yarra in game one and played Yarra in game four.
“We were able to test ourselves and analyse how far we’ve come across the journey and see the value of all the things we’ve been practicing and applying and obviously we got the result on the scoreboard.”
West Preston-Lakeside’s Ashleigh Snow received the best on ground medallion in the win, and was well supported by Maeve Chaplin, Alyssa Bannan and Guilia Ceravolo. Championships leading goal kicker Chloe Williams finished with a game-high three goals.
Kurdas attributed the side’s success to the even contribution of all players in the squad.
“We didn’t have anyone yesterday that didn’t perform below their expected ability, in fact most of the team we rated as being above their expected ability so they really rose to the occasion which was exciting.” she said.
“Across the four games 15 players were named in the best. We didn’t intend to share it around, it wasn’t about that. 15 players of our 26 were named in the best and what I loved was that we didn’t rely on one player.
“I would like to highlight our captain Guilia Ceravolo who played her role for the team. Her tackling pressure was extraordinary and something we really focussed on was honouring the front spot, not just in your football but psychologically in your head and in life.
“It has to be a theme of your life – make sure you take front spot and don’t let anyone take that from you. Be empowered. That was our theme yesterday and Guilia really led from the front there.”
Kurdas also praised the work of her support staff, including assistant coaches David Craig, Deanna Berry and Aimee McDougall.
“Everyone played their role really well, it wasn’t just the players it was also the coaching staff, runners and trainers. Everyone invested in their role and executed really well,” she said.
“All three assistant coaches are Northern Football League developed people and I’m really proud that it was NFL people that were heavily involved in developing these girls. It’s a credit to the league.
“I’d like to say a big thanks to the league for letting me implement the structure that I wanted to build. It was great to have that level of support and backing from the league.
“I’m a big believer in creating enriched environments for strong performances and that is what the league provided for us.”