From Little Saints, Big Saints Grow – Coaching the U12s


This Northern Territory Football League season I have had the pleasure to joint-coach the St Marys U12s side. I share the role with Shannon Rioli – one of the premier players in the NTFL competition and younger brother of former Essendon player Dean. It is the first time I have coached a side in any form but it has been a very enjoyable experience so far.

Shannon and I were fortunate enough to take over a side of a great bunch of kids with tremendous talent. Unfortunately we lost our first match of the season by 48 points on a hot Saturday morning at Gardens Oval. We had no idea of the players’ abilities and even played our star full-forward at fullback on the basis that he had a thumping left foot kick. Fast forward five months and now the boys are preparing to play in their first ever grand final. We will take on Wanderers on Saturday morning on an action-packed day of grand finals at TIO Stadium.

Among the best players in our four-goal preliminary final win last Friday were a couple of famous football names. Jacob Long is the nephew of Essendon champion Michael Long while Maurice “MJ” Rioli is the son of the late great Maurice Snr that dazzled the crowds during his time at Richmond and South Fremantle. MJ is only ten years old and before this season had rarely played a game of organised football. He is a very raw talent but has showed continuous improvement as he adjusts to playing a structured style of footy.


We also have a centurion goal kicker in our side in Adam Kerinaiua Jnr, who reached the 100-goal milestone on the weekend. His father Adam Snr has pulled on an AFL jumper, representing the Brisbane Bears on three occasions in 1992 as an 18-year-old. Adam is a super young talent and remarkably can still play next season as he has just turned 11.

We finished the season as minor premiers but as everyone is aware, finals football is different. Winning is not the be-all and end-all however try telling that to a bunch of players who are playing with the incentive of winning a premiership medal and keeping their footy jumper. Wish us luck.

Twitter – @JClark182

About John Harms

John Harms is a writer, broadcaster, publisher, historian, speaker and teacher. He loves stories.

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