HAMPDEN domination at a junior interleague carnival has cemented the powerhouse league’s place as the strongest junior football organisation in the south-west.
All four grand final teams at Sunday’s Hamilton junior interleague carnival – within the under 14 and 16 categories – hailed from the Hampden league.
Hampden White was crowned victorious in both grades, downing its Hampden Green rivals.
Hampden Under 16 White mentor Jason Bidmade hailed the league’s talented junior stocks.
“There’s a huge amount of quality down here, that probably doesn’t get looked at as much as it should,” Bidmade said.
“(The talent pool) is just massive.”
The winning coach said the concept of interleague, particularly at junior level, provided opportunities for players to grow and flourish.
“We lost the first game, but the longer we played together, the better we got as a side,” Bidmade said.
“We got to know each other and then we played just absolutely super. We had a mix of some brilliant individual efforts, and team efforts.
“It’s a different experience, they can play alongside players who they normally would play against.
“Any experience playing against quality players and quality opposition is good at this level.”
Teams from Hamilton, Portland and Warrnambool and District league circles took part in the round-robin style tournament at Pedrina Park.
Hampden Under 14 White mentor Sam Stevens described his charges’ efforts as “brilliant”.
“There efforts were fantastic, they are just a very coach-able group. They were willing to listen and learn and try to improve,” he said.
“That was the thing we were looking to do. Every opportunity we had, we just wanted to improve the players and improve as a team.
“We lost the first game against the side we ended up beating in the grand final.
“The attitude we took from the first time we played them, to the second time we did, was just to get a little better.”
Stevens said while the focus remained on improvement, fun was also a key feature.
“They get the chance to play at a bit of higher level, and to meet new teammates. It’s about enjoying their footy,” he said.
The Warrnambool and District league’s Henry Kenna was named best player in the under 14 competition, while Hampden White’s Luke Byrne took out top honours in the under 16 category.
In the under 12 curtain-raiser, Hamilton emerged with a thrilling one-point victory over Portland.
Hamilton’s Deacon White was named best under 12 player.