All-conquering Portsmouth under-nines are celebrating after they completed a perfect season.
The young St Helen’s guns were unstoppable as they claimed the South East Hampshire League with 10 wins from their 10 fixtures.
And coach Dave Henderson, who also captains the first team, believes their work ethic has paid off – along with some innovative, good-humoured banter for their rivals.
Henderson said: ‘They were awesome and they are a special bunch.
‘They all play for each other and if one of them doesn’t have a good game, the others chip in.
‘They live and breathe the game.
‘But they love the banter and have come up with a few of their own sledging expressions for a bit of fun.
‘They came up with: “You’ve got more blocks than Lego” after a batsman played a defensive shot.
‘It’s certainly a lot more fun to manage those guys than skippering the first team!’
With the regular team made up of four Portsmouth Grammar School students, three from Craneswater School and one from Springfield School, there is a good mix of talent from the area for the eight-a-side format.
‘It’s nice to have a few different schools involved,’ said Henderson.
‘We had 11 guys in total and six of them have played pretty much every match.
‘We had a bad year last year playing in the age group.
‘They were the youngest and we lost all of the games, apart from a couple.
‘But that year of experience has made all the difference.
‘Over the winter, we did five weeks of winter coaching.
‘It was absolutely bucketing down but we did a lot of work on our fielding.
‘If you get the basics right of catching, throwing, backing up and things like that, it makes all the difference.
‘I don’t think we dropped a catch all season.’
With 16 overs per team and four overs per pair, everyone gets a good part of the game.
All of the youngsters given a chance to bat and bowl, while runs are deducted for dismissals.
Captained by Billy Eales, there was a consistent core of players as Dougie Henderson, Alex Higson, Danny Jones, Jacob Paterson, Thomas Lockyer, William Lunn, Ed Walker, Jo Smitherman, Tom Drabble and Noah Renton all played their part.
Henderson said: ‘I would love to see some of them coming through and going on to play for the first team in due course.
‘The last time the under-nines won the league for the club, Jack Marston was captain and he scored a century for the first team last weekend.
‘We use him as our poster boy!
‘He has played at every level for the club.
‘But it bodes well for the club’s future.
‘It’s all about getting them involved early on and enjoying themselves.’
– STEVE WILSON