ROCHESTER’S under 18 football side is slowly climbing its way up the Goulburn Valley League ladder under the guidance of a new coach.
Elliot Bowen is a first-timer to the role, but not to success having played in the senior grand final side.
He has been an instrumental part of the Tigers line-up since coming to the club in 2009 and has brought a culture of success to the previously struggling thirds team.
The thirds finished 2016 ninth on the ladder with just four wins, their best result prior was in 2013 when they ended in eighth.
But the up and coming Tigers have turned it around this year to conclude round nine on six wins with victories over Seymour, Euroa, Benalla, Echuca, Shepparton Swans and Shepparton Bears.
There biggest was in round seven against the Swans with a 143-point thrashing at Princess Park — their fourth win in a row.
Andrew Henderson finished on a season-high of five goals for the game and has been a star in the forward line to kick 17 this year; Thomas Wild and Ryan Oogjes were next closest on nine each.
The entire team has become a beacon of hope for the club and a lot has to do with their improved fitness according to coach Bowen.
‘‘They’ve got that ability to work both ways, defensively and in attack, which is what good sides are made of,’’ Bowen said.
‘‘All they have to do is keep their skills up and they’ll continue to win games.’’
Bowen’s experience at both VFL and GVL level and respect around the club has made it an easy transition into the coaching job.
‘‘I didn’t have too many expectations on where we would be ladder-wise this year,’’ Bowen said.
‘‘It was always a goal to get them to finals as it’s become an expectation in our senior sides.
‘‘To be sitting fourth (after round seven) with a great win-loss ratio is a good start to getting there.’’
There had been a cultural change in the thirds with players now having the confidence and determination to win each time they take the field.
‘‘I can take some pride in knowing they’ve found that confidence in themselves,’’ Bowen said.
‘‘They’re playing tighter as a group and understand if they each play their roles good things can happen.’’
Bowen was impressed by the whole group and stressed the importance keeping the club’s junior players around to become the next great footballers.
‘‘You’ve got the top-end players like Bailey Wileman, Andy Henderson, Wil Hamilton, Matthew Kellett and Riley Coghill who produce quality games week-in-week-out,’’ he said.
‘‘Then there’s Riley Wachter, Cooper Chapman, Cody Toohill and Adam Hamilton who are lifting their games and playing at a better standard.’’
Bowen said success came from a well-rounded group of players all willing to give their all, which is what the 2017 thirds had managed to produce.