THE youth which could help deliver North Warrnambool Eagles' first Hampden league flag flexed its muscle in the Let's Talk Cup grand final.
The Eagles were dominant from start to finish in accounting for South Warrnambool at The Pond on Friday night, winning 9.4 (58) to 1.6 (12).
It highlighted their enviable depth, from Bailey Jenkinson across half-back, to Sam James in the middle and Joe McKinnon wherever he was required.
Then there was teenage Maskell Medallist Jett Bermingham, the dynamic Jackson Grundy and dangerous Dion Johnstone, who showed his goal-scoring prowess with a clever snap and long-bomb.
Harry Keast is emerging as are Jack Burke and Judah Greene. The list goes on.
Tom Batten, who coached the Let's Talk Cup team, is now a veteran at the club. He's been there in the dark times, when wins were hard to come by, and for the near misses in 2016 and 2019, when a maiden premiership slipped from its grasp.
The Eagles' batch of under 23 players has him excited about what next season could have in store for the Bushfield-based club.
"They're a really close group and they're all best of mates and that's why you play footy," he said.
"It is good to see all their hard work pay off.
"I know it's pre-season but hopefully it will set us up for a good season ahead because we have a really young group overall and it's super exciting, especially being one of the older guys playing with them."
Batten said those who were on the cusp of senior selection or had enjoyed a cameo in the top team would ensure there was pressure for spots.
"I'm sure they're going to get their opportunity if they work hard and stick at it," he said.
"(Senior coach) Adam (Dowie) is really good at rewarding players who put in the work."
Batten rated Jenkinson's performance in the grand final, highlighting his apprentice electrician's ability to lead by example.
The pair form part of the Eagles' dominant back six during the Hampden league home-and-away season.
"I am pretty biased with our back line but I thought 'Jenko' was really good," Batten said.
"Last week he really stood up and this week he took it to the next level.
"He works for me but he's just a ripper lad. He's just very modest.
"All the young lads look up to him and he's definitely a leader. He's very quiet but leads by his footy."
Sam James was named skipper for the five-week tournament, which was designed to provide competition after two coronarvirus-impacted seasons.
Batten said the ball winner was a crucial part of the Eagles' line-up.
"Sam is the vice captain in our senior team and he really took his leadership to the next level," he said.
"He's hard at it and leads by example with his footy as well but his talking and on-ground direction has been what I've seen him improve the most I think, especially in this competition.
"Usually he's one of the younger lads but he's the oldest here and can really dictate what can happen out on the ground."
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