The significance of this Saturday’s match is obvious, as a second flag for Pennant Hills is on offer, after last weekend’s stirring victory in the Division Five competition. Well done NBags, Sir Donald and all the Division Five boys on a fantastic season! But this weekend’s Grand Final has special significance for Fraser as he has not previously enjoyed premiership success and he had great misfortune last season when he missed selection in the Division One Grand Final side in 2015. (Given it was a heartbreaking 1 point loss to Sydney University coming from 5th place, maybe he’s lucky not to be carrying those scars? – Editor). So, this weekend offers Frog some sort of redemption and here’s hoping that the Footy Gods smile kindly upon him and all his Demons team-mates.
Not only will the Demons be desperate for a win, but the boys will be determined to put on a strong showing to ensure the moment is one that Frog will look back on with pride and fond memories. The Wollondilly Knights was the only side to beat our boys this season and the record stands at 2 wins, 1 loss in favour of the Demons, with Penno winning the most recent encounter by 44 points in the 2nd Semi Final a fortnight ago. Expectations are high for a gladiatorial contest, as being the Club’s first grade side, the Knights will be a formidable outfit in the most important match of the season.
Growing up in Geelong, Fraser started out playing soccer on Sundays and then took up footy on Saturday’s playing for the Bell Park Dragons when 8 years old. Fraser reckons he was only 7, but his dad insists 8 was the minimum age before the days of Auskick. Frog says that he “wanted to play earlier but my mum wouldn’t allow it.” He informs us that “Jimmy Bartel and Shaun Higgins are notable alumni from Bell Park currently in the AFL.” The Bell Park footy ground was across the road from the family home and it’s where Fraser and his brother and club-mate, Adam, spent many afternoons kicking for goal and occasionally kick-to-kick with their dad.
When the family moved to Sydney, Fraser and Adam joined the Pennant Hills Junior Football Club in 2006. Fraser played 35 games over two seasons in the Under 14s, 15s and 16s. He was Under 14 Best & Fairest in 2006 and Most Consistent for the Under 16s in 2007. He played junior rep footy both in Geelong and in Sydney. He also played a handful of games with the Under 18s in 2007, before permanently switching to the senior club in 2008, still only 15 years of age, as there was no Under 16s team at the Junior Club that year.
Starting as a 15 year old, Fraser played 3 and a half seasons of Under 18 footy, amassing 72 under-age games, which was a club record until 2015, before Lukas De Vries went past him, finishing on 74 games. Fraser is one of only 9 Penno boys to have played more than 50 under-age games for the Club and he and Lukas are the only two with more than 70 games to their credit. In 2008 and ‘09, Frog was runner up Best & Fairest in both seasons playing for the Under 18 Devils. In 2010 he was captain of the U18 Premier Cup team and won the Most Consistent Award. He also got his first taste of open-age footy that year, playing 9 games in the Reserves and Thirds.
In 2011, Fraser debuted in Premier Division playing 4 senior games that season. As things turned out, his only other senior game has been a single match played in 2012. Of his debut Fraser recalls, “Kev Eynaud was the coach and we played at Olds Park vs St George. I can’t remember if we won and I’m pretty sure I hardly got near the ball. I must have been fit back then as my job that day was to tag Lloyd Perris, who at the time was a gun youngster.” Penno won that day in a close encounter, 12.9-81 to 11.10-76 and Lloyd Perris kicked 3 goals for St George!
Between 2011 and 2015, Frog has been a very serviceable backman playing mainly in the reserves – observing that “as I’ve become rounder and slower I’ve played mostly in the backline.” In recognition of his strong leadership qualities, he was captain of the Reserve Grade side for two seasons under the tutelage of player/coach Jason Clarke. He notes that he has now “played in every grade of Pennant Hills! That is, 1st grade through 5th – and both under 18 teams! … until this year where I have enjoyed playing forward in the 3s.”
In 2016, he has played most of the current season in the third grade side, performing the unfamiliar role of a ‘gun’ forward, kicking 50 goals (most for the Club in 2016) and 2nd on the Division Three goal-kicking ladder. Asked if he has ever done better in front of goals, Fraser said – “Absolutely not! I played all junior football as a midfielder and all my senior football until this year as a specialist back pocket. Fortunately Boxy has allowed me to play forward this year, it’s been super! I do none of the hard work but still get all the acclaim whenever I kick straight! I could certainly get used to being a permanent fixture up front!”
Fraser is a right foot kick “and right foot only” and has worn jumper #32 since his “first senior season and has yet to give it up. Scarlo has been particularly helpful in not letting anyone else take it! I played juniors wearing number 17, which Adam has now inherited and continues to wear.” It’s not clear where his footy nickname, Frog, originated, but it has stuck! (Maybe it’s something to do with being ‘round & slow’? .. your words Frog – Editor.)
Asked about the best players he’s played with and against, he rates “Tim Scoular’s finals run of 2015