by Mark Bell
Pre-season training is nearly over for the Coober Pedy Saints as they ventured down to Roxby Downs for a Lightning Carnival on Sunday 5th April.
Two bus loads of players, officials and support staff along with three support vehicles camped the Saturday night at the bunkhouse at the Woomera Area School. With a team for each of the Under 12’s, Under 16’s and the Seniors, over 50 people made the trip.With the Under 12’s first game scheduled for 8:40am, everyone was up at 6am and on the road by 7 to travel the 84kms to Roxby Downs. Another two car loads left Coober Pedy that morning and one from Port Augusta meeting up in Roxby Downs prior to the first Seniors Match.
The Lightning Carnival is a day full of short, fun and fast-paced football covering the three age groups. With 5 teams in each level, teams played 4 games (plus the Grand Final) throughout the day, starting with the Under 12’s. Each game consisted of 2 x 10 minute halves giving the players enough time to gain some match fitness and for coaches to plan for the season proper. Both the Under 12’s and the Under 16’s played 9-a-side football on 1/3 size ovals while the Seniors played a full-strength squad (18 + bench players) on a full-sized oval.
Coached by Tristam Wildy, the Under 12’s played some great football with the star being Roy Murray. Dylan Orvad has improved dramatically from last year with hard tackling a feature of his game. Unfortunately, the Under 12’s were not able to win any of their four games.
Like the Under 12’s, the Under 16’s were unable to win any games. However, with Jamahl Witchem (Marley-Boy) starring, they threatened all day. Jamahl had travelled down from Indulkana to play in these games and along with a number of other players from Oodnadatta, the trip was a long one for them. While winning is important, participation is the main thing and all the junior players must be congratulated for travelling the large distances to play in these games.
The Seniors started with a one-point win over Roxby Districts. With a squad packed with a number of first-gamers for the Saints, the Roxby Districts side didn’t know what to expect. With Daniel Wilson leading from the front at full-forward, the Saints ran out winners by 1 point.
The second game an hour later, saw the Saints playing against Hornridge who are looking like the side to beat this year. Hornridge have recruited well and have included in their squad, former Power, Brisbane and Sydney player, Adam Heuskes. Unfortunately for the Saints, Hornridge proved too strong running out comfortable winners in the end by around 3 goals.
The third game was against Olympic Dam. Coober Pedy has never beaten them in a normal season (the 19-player game aside) and the trend continued. Olympic Dam was able to record a 2 goal victory.
The last game was against Andamooka who up until then had not won a game all day. With Layne Borrett starring in the ruck as he had done all day and Martin Grava bouncing down the wing, the Saints ran out easy winners. It must also be mentioned that Khurram Saleem from the Council kicked a goal with his first kick in football in this game which was a real team-lifter. Special mention also to Steve Baines, who played most of the games, for his fearless attack on the footy and he didn’t even complain of being sore the next day!
Two wins out of four games was a very good result for the Saints and the confidence levels are now high leading in the first game at Roxby Downs on the 9th May. Aside from the players mentioned above, a number of others are looking good for this year including, of course, our playing coach Zaaheer McKenzie, the evergreen Patrick Larkins at full back and Ashley Cook looks good on the half-forward line. Congratulations also to Ben Buller for being selected in the squad for the inter-league game against Broken Hill at AAMI Stadium in Adelaide on the 2nd May.
It has also been confirmed by the Woomera & Districts Football League that our first home game this year will be a night game on the 23rd May. The Coober Pedy Saints thanks the League and Hornridge for accepting the request and the Club looks forward to a strong show of support from the town for this game. The start time for this game will be advised at a later date.