by Ben Waterworth (Twitter: @bjwaterworth)
TO put yourself in the prime position to win a premiership in the EFL, you have to finish in the top three spots on the ladder.
Finishing first, second or third earns you the double chance, giving you a fall-back card if you fail to register a win in the opening rounds of the finals series.
The Glen Waverley Rovers failed to finished inside the top three in the Under 17B competition, falling into fifth place at the completion of the home and away season.
But that has not worried the Rovers one iota.
The boys in white and black have taken all before them so far in the junior ‘Choose Tap finals series, winning both of their sudden death finals – and convincingly too.
Despite his team’s fifth placing, Glen Waverley coach Rick Castricum approached the finals series with quiet confidence and believed his team would be competitive.
‘There was only two or three games separating firth to fifth, so we knew it was a close competition,’ he said.
‘We also finally had a full squad to choose from. It’s funny how the season can work. A while back we were struggling to fill a side, but we’ve had to roster one player off for the first two weeks of the finals.’
The Rovers have been dominant over the past fortnight, defeating St Simons White by 35 points in the elimination final then accounting for Boronia Gold by 27 points in Sunday’s first semi-final.
Castricum, an assistant coach with the EFL’s Under 14 Division 2 side this season, has been thrilled with the overall improvement of all his players during the past two matches.
‘I rate my players as good, better and best players and a lot of our good players are becoming better players across board,’ he said.
‘That happens when players get confident, not only with their own bodies, but in their ability.’
Alistar Tilyard has led the way for the Rovers, booting eight goals from the two finals so far, including a bag of six against St Simons White.
Castricum says Tilyard, who has kicked 29 goals and been named in the Rovers’ best in all but one game this season, is a ‘superstar’.
‘I rank him very, very highly,’ Castricum said.
‘He plays like Trent Cotchin. He has silky skills and is a terrific user of the footy. I’m really impressed with his attitude.’
Castricum’s attention, though, has quickly turned to this Sunday’s preliminary ‘Choose Tap’ final against Montrose – the side that finished on top of the Under 17B ladder at the end of the home and away season.
Before losing to third-placed Rowville in last weekend’s second semi-final, the Demons had lost just two games for the season.
Ironically, one of those losses came at the hands of Castricum’s Rovers back in Round 10.
And the Glen Waverley coach believes it will give his side a mental advantage this Sunday.
‘It steers us very well,’ Castricum said.
‘We were undermanned to the max that day, too. We had to worry about fielding a team before winning the game. We went in with a few Under 15’s and players we had recruited from all over the joint.’
Through his time with the EFL junior interleague program, Castricum has seen – and coached – a large portion of Montrose’s 17B side.
He admits the Dees have a great list of players to choose from.
‘They are very similar to us in that they love playing pressure football,’ he said,
‘Tye Blasby-Leech and Bradley Batten-Leitch are good players, while their captain [Ryan Emberson] is a ripping leader.
‘They’re going to be a hard hurdle to get over, but we’ll do our very best.’
In a major blow for the top-side, Montrose is likely to be without star goal kicker Ben Simpson, who is in doubt for the game due to injury.
‘We like playing against great players, so it will be real shame for the game to miss Ben Simpson,’ Castricum said.