Pies’ last chance
Wednesday, 17th August, 2011
By John Casey
Magpies captain Curtis Jelbert will be hoping tonight’s Under-18 Preliminary Final will be a double celebration in what has been a lean season for the Central Football Club.
Jelbert will be making his 50th appearance in the Under-18 competition and a victory over West at Jubilee Oval is the last hope for Central to make a football grand final in 2011 with their senior side and B Grade team already out of contention.
A versatile competitor capable of playing at either end of the field, Jelbert is in his first season as captain and says he will be leading by example against the Robins tonight.
“I’ve really enjoyed the extra responsibility of being captain this year,” Curtis said yesterday.
“The leadership does add a little bit of pressure - but it is nice to know that the coach sees you as someone who can lead a team,” he added.
Jelbert has a close association with Under-18 coach Ben Camilleri as they are team-mates in Central’s senior team.
Both enjoyed premiership success last season - Jelbert with the B Grade side and Camilleri in the Magpies’ senior triumphant - and success for the Under-18 team will salvage something from the club’s disappointing 2011.
“It is times like this that we all need to stick together as a club,” was Jelbert’s mature response when asked about Central’s fall from grace.
“A victory over West and then success against South in the Grand Final would give us something to build on in 2012.
“West have some very good players in their team who provide lots of run, so it is important that we get on top early.
“We need to be first to the ball, win possession and keep them out of the game.
“They will be slight favourites going into the match, but as long as we stick to our game plan and make it a tough, hard contest I think we can do OK,” he added.
A win for Central against West would carry some irony for Jelbert as he started his career at the Under-6 level with the Robins and plays A Grade cricket with West during summer.
To complicate the story even further his father Andrew and Uncle Darren both played senior football with North.
“I started my footy with West and then lost interest for a while,” Curtis said.
“While at school at Burke Ward most of my mates were playing with Central and I decided to have another go at footy and I have been with the Magpies ever since.”
Surprisingly, the record books show that Central is yet to win an Under-18 premiership since the competition was formed in 1999.
South will this year be shooting for their sixth junior flag (and third in succession) while North (four premierships) and West (three) have also enjoyed multiple success at Under-18 level.
“We lost the Grand Final to South last year and in my first season (2008) North grabbed the premiership decider from us,” Curtis explained.
“That was pretty disappointing because we went in as favourites against North but our team just didn’t click on the day.”
Last year’s B Grade premiership success however is a game that Jelbert will remember for a long time.
“South were favoured to win the flag but we managed to get up in extra time,” Curtis recalled with a smile.