Alstonville’s Caleb Hay wins a hit-out for the Northern Rivers Storm against Labrador Tigers in a recent match at Bangalow.
Alstonville’s Caleb Hay wins a hit-out for the Northern Rivers Storm against Labrador Tigers in a recent match at Bangalow.

Storm brewing for shot at top

THEY’RE flying the flag for local footy on the Gold Coast and are a realistic chance of giving the premiership a shake – that’s according to the coach of the Northern Rivers Storm Under-16 junior AFL side.

The young Stormers, back after a season lay-off due to lack of numbers, are fourth after five rounds in the AFL Gold Coast Juniors Division 2, now a quarter of the way through the season.

Storm coach Bernie Delaney said what was setting his side apart this season was its courage.

“I was only thinking about this today, what sort of team are we, and I’d say they’re a very determined group of young players who are courageous at the ball,” he said.

“They’re hard nuts, and our top eight or 10 players have brilliant skills. They can all hit a target from 40 to 50 metres away.”

With all good football teams, it’s the spine that provides the spark. Here, the Storm are served well with Alstonville’s Caleb Hay a revelation in the ruck.

“He’s a true find,” Delaney said of the 14-year-old.

“He’s well over six-foot; I don’t think he’s lost a hit-out and he’s in his first season.”

Hay’s ruckwork gives the likes of rovers Lachlan Cheffins and Brian Delaney clean ball in space, and from there it’s either a quick stab pass to Willow Lewis at centre half-forward or a well-directed punt to the leading Andrew Camilleri at full-forward.

In defence, Michael Brown at centre half-back and Sam Spencer at full-back hold fort.

“It’s their enthusiasm for each other and the game. They’re a happy and committed bunch of kids,” Delaney said.

“I’d say we’re a realistic chance of making the finals (their division has eight teams with a top four) and if we keep improving we have the potential to finish the season in third, if not second place.”

Delaney credits the work of development officers with AFL Queensland, with which the Northern Rivers is aligned, with an increase in awareness of junior AFL resulting in growing numbers willing to play.

“Auskick’s been in schools for eight to 10 years now and when kids get to high school it’s a viable option,” he said.

“Most high schools have a footy team so it’s not a foreign concept any more.”



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