From easybeats to premiers: Teenage duo shares in glory
FROM easybeats with a grand plan to deserved premiers lifting Ipswich football to exceptional heights.
Western Pride's under 18 football side sealed their historic state league achievement with a polished 4-0 victory over bogey side South West Queensland.
Although they had secured Pride's first National Premier Leagues honour a week earlier, the team delayed their celebrations until winning their final game of the season.
As the squad of terrific teenagers prepared to enjoy their NPL reward, two players in particular typified how far the Ipswich-based club has come in five years.
Leading goalscorer Mitch Herrmann and reliable team player Will Kitching were the only two players from the championship-winning side to have progressed to under 18 ranks from Pride's under 13 team. They were part of Pride's inaugural under 13 side in 2013.
During those first couple of NPL seasons, the Pride boys regularly lost by up to 15 goals.
However, with persistence, professional coaching and loyalty, the current group this season won 14 matches and drew six, only losing two games. They became Pride's first premiership-winning combination.
The Pride U18s finished with 70 goals, only conceding 16, to be clearcut competition champions.
"It's been a long journey,'' Boonah-based Herrmann said after sharing in the team's dressing room victory song.
"We didn't start off very well in under 13s but we've become premiers, finally.''
Herrmann, 17, attributed the amazing turnaround to how well the Pride club has developed its players.
"They got a few new coaches in and then the program started to work so it's better,'' he said.
"Everyone's been supportive so it's been pretty good.''
Ipswich born and bred Kitching agreed, rating the premiership success the highlight of his football career so far.
"We started off not so good. We were getting smashed every weekend,'' the West Moreton Anglican College student said, reflecting on his early days at Pride.
"It's been good to stick with it and we've become stronger and the club has become stronger, growing support and developing players really well.''
Midfielder Kitching was also pleased how last year's group of under 16 players remained at Pride building a promising combination for the future.
This year's under 18 side had to play second placed Gold Coast four times, earning the top title the hard way.
"It was a battle. It wasn't an easy win - the premiership,'' Kitching, 17, said.
"There's great team spirit.
"We are all mates and everything like that so it helps.
"There's good competition for spots as well so there's good quality there. Everyone has contributed.''
Herrmann said the team sensed they were headed for a successful season after being unbeaten halfway through the year.
At the start of Saturday's match, left winger/ midfielder Herrmann was the team's top scorer on 12, one goal ahead of another talented net-finder Jacob Advaney.
Advaney scored Pride's opening two goals at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex to move ahead before substitute Herrmann scored Pride's third.
With both players on 13 goals for the season, Herrmann was on the spot to knock in his 14th from a Pride corner late in the match.
Herrmann modestly conceded it could have been an own goal, happy to share the final top goal-scoring tally with Advaney.
"Our team bonded really well, just the spirit's really high,'' Herrmann said.
"We've got a lot of good quality players and a good coach (Jordan Manning).''
Manning guided the under 18 team this year, working with Pride's senior head coach Graham Harvey.
Manning was unable to join the immediate victory chant after Saturday's game as he had to play in the under 20 match.
However, Manning was keen to share a celebration with his under 18 team after captaining Pride's under 20 side to a 15-4 victory over South West Queensland.
The premiership-winning Pride under 18 squad was: Aaron Midkiff, Aidan Norris, Alex Parsons, Ben Button, Benjamin Barratt, Benjamin Garzotto, Callum Hart, Conor Doyle, Daniel Hall, Finley Smart, Frank Kabalu, Jack Sharples, Jackson Bray, Jacob Advaney, Jacob Kleinhans (captain), Jarrod Hyslop, Josh Wilson, Justin Weier, Max Davison, Mitchell Herrmann, Mitchell Husband, Murray Thistlethwaite, Robert Kramer, Salomon Lukonga, Sebastian Scaroni, Will Orford and Will Kitching.