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Colts Season Review 2023

Friday, October 13, 2023 - 11:44 AM

From a win-loss perspective the 2023 season for the Colts at Swan Districts might not have gone to plan, but with a group largely of bottom-age players it was all about building for the future and coach John Armstrong couldn’t be more excited.

Swans won the colts premiership back in 2021 in the first season that Armstrong was in charge as coach and while 2022 was a tough season with three wins, even with the same number of victories in 2023, it was all about getting the program set up for the future.

While already a premiership coach with Swan Districts' colts from back in 2021, Armstrong might never been as excited for a season as he now is for 2024.

For a whole host of reasons, he can't wait to start the work in late November with the group over pre-season and prepare for 2024 because a lot of the groundwork was done in 2023, most of the group will be returning and he thinks their potential is worth being excited about.

"I'm probably the most motivated I've been to be honest just in regards to the talent we have," Armstrong said.

"After winning it in my first year and how it's gone over the last couple of years, I just want to get back to seeing the boys play an exciting brand of footy but being a teacher, I love to age demographic of working with the colts.

"We might have got the results this year, but even coming to training and enjoying the boys and watching them become better footballers is something I love. All the assistants love working with them too and at the moment I'm loving working with the colts age kids and this current group of boys that we have."

Reflecting on season 2023

The colts season started for Swan Districts with a couple of tough losses to East Perth and East Fremantle before a narrow loss to West Perth and then a breakthrough win in Round 4 against South Fremantle.

That was followed up with a three-goal loss to Peel Thunder before another tight loss to eventual premiers Claremont and heartbreaking one-point defeat to Subiaco.

After the Round 8 bye, it was a tough loss to grand finalists Perth followed by a 20-point defeat to East Fremantle, loss to West Perth at Joondalup and then the second win of the season at home to East Perth in Round 13.

That was followed up with a loss at home to the Lions before finishing off with a five-point win against South Fremantle, and then losses at the hands of Perth, Claremont and Peel Thunder.

Overall, while the wins he was hoping for didn’t eventuate, it was a significantly young colts group Armstrong was in charge of and plenty to build on moving forward.

"With colts footy, the wins and losses come from how strong your older boys can be but I think the amount of talent that we had going through the colts team throughout the year was exciting," Armstrong said.

"We just got on the backfoot to start the year and the two games that we started with against East Perth and East Fremantle, they jumped us pretty quickly and we were almost chasing our tail for a little bit there.

"To the boys' credit, they still played some exciting football but from those two games moving forward, out of the next five we lost I think we only lost four quarters of football.

"If we were able to play consistently for four quarters it could have been a different story, but I'm really looking forward to the boys and how they can develop moving into next season now because we don’t lose too many 19-year-olds.

"Most of the boys will still be eligible to play colts so that's something that will strengthen us next year."

The exciting signs for 2024

Not only will Armstrong have access to the majority of the group again from this season aside from a handful who graduate to senior football, several players from the Bunbury area will be moving to Perth and have more time to commit to their football and training.

On top of that, a strong group of under-16s players will become available to play colts so there's plenty of reasons why Armstrong is excited for 2024 already.

"Another part of it this year was that we had about six south west boys playing each week and hopefully most of them will move up to Perth next year now that they've finished school so that will make a massive difference," he said.

"About seven or eight of the boys who will be able to play colts next year were in the State 16s program too so there's a lot of talent there moving forward. We hopefully just have to help them reach that potential which is the challenge for us as a coaching staff."

More than about just winning

Being a colts coach means that while you always want to win as much as you can, even more important is to be developing the young men to have them ready to take the next step in their careers whether that's in the senior program at Swan Districts or beyond.

That's why even though Armstrong would have loved to win more than the three games his team did in 2023, there was lots to like from the first-time colts players getting a chance or those that graduated who went on to have success.

A host of players who Armstrong has coached at colts level earned opportunities at league level at Swans throughout 2023 and then several of them were also part of the reserves premiership team, and he couldn’t have been happier for them.

"Winning is obviously always good fun and I think a lot of people externally might judge you on the wins and losses, but anyone involved really looks at how many league footballers we can produce," Armstrong said.

"Once I got my head around that and watching someone like Luke Kelly who was our captain this year, and seeing him play in the reserves grand final is just as big a reward as winning games.

"Seeing Riley Hardeman play league football in Round 1 was the same and the enjoyment that you get from those boys achieving their goals is the reward you enjoy.

"Ultimately their goals aren’t about winning colts games, it's about getting to the next level and seeing them end up achieving what they dream of is what colts footy is all about. It's all about helping them get to the next level so it gives you a lot of satisfaction."

Players who grabbed their opportunities

Swan Districts' colts might have only won three games this season, but that doesn’t mean a host of players didn’t impress and produce some standout performances.

One that stood out to Armstrong was ruckman Owen Carroll who virtually came from nowhere to become a rising star of the future averaging 29.5 hit outs a game along with 10.4 possessions.

Chayse Martinson won the EJ McManus Award as the fairest and best from Luke Kelly and Riley Hardeman while Anthony Hansen was another that Armstrong was impressed by and Otis Harvey is another he can't wait to see thrive further in 2024.

"Owen Carroll, our ruckman, his development was probably the biggest out of everyone because he came from not playing any development football to getting an opportunity and he played some fantastic football," Armstrong said.

"He got colts Team of the Year which was awesome for him and I think he'll go on to be a very good player when his knee gets right. You can also look at guys like Chayse Martinson who won our fairest and best but I already knew he was going to be a very good football player.

"The Bunbury boys like Anthony Hansen were exciting too and he was one who already moved up to Perth halfway through this year which helped his football.

"I also look forward to Otis Harvey being part of the program full-time next year because seeing him develop from when he was in the 16s to how he finished with his last two games with us shows that he has a lot of potential."