IT’S already been a dream season for Maiden Gully YCW under-18 sharpshooter Tyler James.
But the 18-year-old hopes the best is still to come as he and his Eagles teammates prepare for LVFNL grand final battle against Pyramid Hill this Saturday at Serpentine.
James, who is in his second year with the Eagles, has booted a league-high 113 goals this season.
He cracked the ton in the Eagles’ round 15 games against Marong in just his 12th match of the season.
James has since progressed his tally to 113, boosted by five in a 28-point win over the Bulldogs in their second semi-final encounter a fortnight ago.
His haul is more than double the 54 goals he kicked during the Eagles’ 2016 premiership season.
James put the improvement down to a big pre-season spent honing his goal kicking skills and the excellent work of teammates further up the ground.
“We have some very handy midfielders, who make our forwards’ jobs easier.” He said.
“Rhys Brown is our captain, Braydan Riddell is our ruckman, Connor Lansdown, Cody Wright, Lachy Martini, Mitch Daly – the list goes on.
“The grand final will be a real good game, it could go either way really.
“We lost once to Pyramid Hill by seven points and we’ve beaten them twice by about 30.”
With 13 goals in three matches against the Bulldogs, James again looms as an obvious key for his side.
But if the Eagles match-winner is feeling any extra weight of expectation, it’s not apparent.
His coach Nick Patching, who previously coached James for two seasons in the Kangaroo Flat under-16s before both crossed to Maiden Gully YCW, said his young full forward had improved “leaps and bounds’ each season.
“He can actually play backline as well, but he’s become that good up forward that we have just left him there,” he said.
“He’s gone from strength-to-strength; he’s a very special player and a great person as well.
“I’m not sure how many points he has kicked, but it would easily be a better than two (goals) to one (behind) ratio. I think in round one he kicked 12.3.
“And the great thing from a coach’s point of view is that he actually gives a lot of goals off – he’ll mark the ball 30 or 40m metres out on an angle and he will centre the ball to a teammate in a better position.”
James has a biggest haul of 14 goals this season and has on four occasions booted 10 or more.
The great thing from a coach’s point of view is that he actually gives a lot of goals off – he’ll mark the ball 30 or 40 metres out on an angle and he will centre the ball to a teammate in a better position.Nick Patching
Pyramid Hill is not without goalkicking strength of its own, with James Ryan (52) and Xavier Ryan (46) combining for nearly 100 goals, and Bailey Pickersgill booting 26.
Patching was certain James would command plenty of attention on Saturday, but backed his star goal kicker to rise to the occasion.
“The mids have got to get the ball to him, but we have a set-up where we are not too reliant on him,” he said.
“But he is a star – and can win it for us.
“He kicked the goal that won us last year’s grand final – we were down by four points with a minute to go and he took a mark and kicked a goal.
“He gained a lot of confidence from that.”