Port juniors show strength in numbers

Action from the under-13s semi final played at Wayne Richards Park between the Port Swoopers and Port Bombers. Photo: Paul Taylor

PORT Macquarie’s junior club had a fantastic 2021 with three minor premierships and an increase in player numbers.

This season there were 126 players who made up seven teams across the four age groups at Wayne Richards Park as well as a further 80 players enjoying Port Macquarie’s Auskick program which the club runs each Friday night.

The club fielded two teams in the under-11s (Flyers and Swoopers), three teams in the under-13s (Flyers, Swoopers and Bombers) as well as a Magpie team in both the Youth Girls and under-15s.

Shortly before the season started it was a situation club president Luke White didn’t think the Magpies would be in.

“A month out from the season it looked like we were going to have one under-11 team and two under-13s teams,” White said.

“Then Camden Haven became incorporated into the club and we were looking at three 13s and two 11s.”

The club is always happy to have extra numbers but White admits it provided some concerns as the season approached.

“It did bring some issues with it. Apparel was the main one,” he said.

“We didn’t have enough training shirts or, shorts, socks or even jerseys.”

Out of Port Macquarie’s seven teams, five reached the semi finals. It could so easily have been six with the Swoopers just missing out on a finals berth in the under-11s.

The Flyers were the under-11s minor premiers in 2021 while the under-15s also finished on top of the ladder.

In the under-13s the club selected three evenly matched teams and it showed in the results with the Swoopers finishing with the minor premiership while the Flyers finished second and the Bombers fourth.

As well as being president, White was coach of the minor premiership winning Swoopers team. He said the closeness of the under-13s came about because the selection process for each team was more about friendship groups rather than ability and picking an A, B and C team.

“We’ve never done that because I don’t think anybody wants to feel like they’re a back-up or in the B team,” White explained.

“This year we were guided by groups of mates.

“With the Bombers, out of their 14 players there were 10 kids from Camden Haven and we were lucky to have a group of three or four kids who are pretty easy going and were happy to play wherever we asked them to.”

White puts the healthy numbers down to a strong Auskick program over the past few years with Friday nights proving popular as it creates less of a clash with other sports in the area.

“A lot of our 13s and 15s a few years ago were part of a bubble of about 130 Auskickers that we had that year,” he said.

“They love their footy that group and have stayed together ever since. The best thing is they’re good kids and so are their parents. Of all of the kids and parents, there is no-one at the club that I wouldn’t want to stop on the boundary and talk to.”

The Port Flyers under-11s go into attack during their exciting 4 point win over the Coffs Breakers at Fitzroy Oval. Photo: Green Shoots Marketing

A healthy club culture aside, it helps that there are some exciting players making their way through the ranks at Port Macquarie.

Isaac Luke from the Bombers won the Ackerly/Colliver Medal as the leading vote getter in the under-13s League Best & Fairest award. Mitchell White from the Swoopers didn’t finish far behind Luke in the count in fourth position.

The Rising Star award for the under-13s was taken out by Tobie Quinn (Flyers) while Brenton Mance (Bombers) and Rocco Chetwynd (Flyers) were also in the running for the prize.

In the under-11s Xavier Mat had a great season for the Flyers finishing runner-up in the League Best & Fairest as well as winning the Rising Star medal. Mat’s teammate Oto Ryan finished fifth in the umpires’ votes.

Luke Mance from the Swoopers matched his older brother’s effort to be in the running for the Rising Star award.

Sophie Kelly was in the running for the Rising Star award in the Youth Girls competition while Cedar Barry finished in a tie for third place in the under-15s League Best & Fairest.

Action from the under-13s semi final played at Wayne Richards Park between the Port Swoopers and Port Bombers. Photo: Paul Taylor