A season like no other came to an end at the weekend when Picola District Football Netball League's NSW-based junior competition staged its grand finals.
Across two grades of football and three of netball, juniors battled it out to secure premiership success in 2020 — a rare commodity for AFL Victoria-affiliated leagues due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
● Jerilderie lifted when it counted most in the under-17 football ranks, knocking over previously undefeated Berrigan in the decider.
The Demons had only secured a pair of wins in the regular season, but stood tall in the finals to claim the flag by 21 points.
Cruz Nash starred with four goals in the 8.5 (53) to 4.10 (34) triumph for Jerilderie, with Rory Knight and Brody Benjamin also impressive.
“It was very pleasing to see our boys get the win on the weekend,” Demons coach Carson Thomas told the Southern Riverina News.
“In a year that has been filled with uncertainty with our players not knowing if they were even going to take the field at all, to win it was even more special.
“We really focused on making it a real team effort on Saturday.
“We have a lot of young players coming up into the thirds for their first year who did all the damage in the forward pack.
“Our more senior players held down the midfield and held strong in defence.
“Rory Knight was clearly our best player on Saturday, having to mark up against Darcy McManus who kicked eight goals last week.
“He was a key for us to shut down early and we were relieved to see him moved to the wing.
“We had most of the possession in the first half, so we wanted to keep it that way and stay focused in the second.”
Thomas said the victory was made even better with the collaboration of players coming from various towns in the region.
“I’m just excited for the boys and for the parents,” he said.
“We had five players come across from Rennie when their season was cancelled, one from Tocumwal and one from Coleambally, so it was amazing to see such community spirit.
“For a team with many new faces to win the ‘COVID Cup’, which I believe some are calling it, was a true reward for the boys.”
For the Saints, James Curtin booted two majors and Kaileb Wilson was best afield.
● Under-14 football action also had an undefeated outfit fall at the final hurdle when the Deniliquin Rovers went down to Berrigan.
The Saints had Charlie Bull (four goals), Logan Leiper (three) and Noah Bradley (three) in fine form during the 12.5 (77) to 2.2 (14) win.
“We were on from the initial jump; Deni have a great forward line and jumped us early in both our encounters this season,” Saints coach Craig Thornton said.
“Our key from the outset was to get ahead on the scoreboard early, so our game plan focused on that.
“It was the right time for everything to come together as we worked on getting a quick start for the last few weeks.
“We talked to our backs, mids and forwards separately before the game and each of them had their assignments to focus on.
“Deni have a really strong forward pack, so we had our backs stay tight on them.”
The Saints’ squad was a combination of Murray Football League outfit Deniliquin Rams and Berrigan locals.
Thornton praised the help of the Deniliquin players and Rams coach Anthony Bradley.
“Deni boys Logan Leiper, Angus Wright and Marcus Moorse played a big part on the field for us,” Thornton said.
“Our local boy Charlie Baxter also had a top-shelf game.
“It was a bit of a struggle at the start of the season to find a balance for playing time for our local and Deni players, but to their credit, the Deni boys were patient and mature about the situation.
“They helped mentor our younger side a tremendous amount and we will benefit from their guidance next season if all goes back to normal.
“Anthony Bradley was also a big help all season, so he deserves a great deal of credit.”
Shaleah Cooper and Liam East battled hard for the Rovers.
● Berrigan also tasted success in the under-17 netball decider, defeating Deniliquin 56-28.
The Rovers had Edwina Barclay, Charlotte Strong and Sienna Jenkins in great form throughout the clash, but the Saints — through the likes of Lily Sharp, Mackenzie Hannan and Cody Pfeiffer — were dominant victors by the time the final whistle sounded.
● Deniliquin did not finish the day empty-handed though, with the club's youngest netballers up to the task of snaring premiership medals.
The under-15 decider had the Rovers defeating Blighty 25-14, with Matilda Glowrey, Erika Martin and Elena Mulham among the awards.
● In under-13 action, Deniliquin completed a perfect season to raise the "COVID Cup", winning 27-17 over Berrigan in the grand final.
Chloe Macknight, Makayla Finn and Hazel Glowrey impressed for the Rovers.
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