What a week. It all seemed to be going so well, then Football NSW released some strict guidelines somewhat out of the blue. No spectators at football matches (does this mean the A League finals series is behind closed doors?) and most heart breaking of all, no esky to numb the pain after a game. We all know it’s all to keep us safe, and we’re absolutely delighted to be playing this year at all, but ooh, that smarts.
We start the week on Saturday morning.
No pitch inspections needed, although I’m not sure how our training ground Meadowbank 4 (the Four-tress) passed the test. Beautiful sunny day mind you, so the pools of water were ripe for evaporation.
The first action was a tough assignment for West Ryde Rovers Under 15 Division 1. Sitting in third place with only the top two going into the finals, they were up against their nemesis West Pennant Hills, a team who seemingly don’t know how to win or lose gracefully. Rovers went in 2-0 up at half time, star striker Bilal again causing all sorts of mayhem, but the wheels fell off in the second half and they were pegged back to 2-2. Cue a long ball up the right for our Zach to chase. With the keeper advancing and looking favourite, Zach somehow got there first and looped a delicate chip over the goalie for an exquisite finish from an acute angle. The look on Zach’s face was something to behold – raw emotion and joy. Just how scoring a great goal feels, and in such a tense game.
I likened it to Gavin Peacock’s second goal at Ipswich in 1991, albeit on the other side of the field – not so fond memories of a massive bus trip from the Haymarket when the coach broke down just off the A1 and we missed the first part of the game. Got there in time to see this one, the second wonder goal from the wily midfielder. I recall getting a replacement coach that was dead fancy and we got back into Newcastle in the early hours and I had to get Dad to pick me up. Anyway, I digress!
The lead was held until late in the game when a West Pennant Hills player did a John Barnes v Brazil and meandered through the whole team to score a simple goal, and 3-3 was the final score. A game that will long be remembered for getting a glimpse of emotion from my teenage son, for some ridiculous banter between the players, and unfortunately for a slightly incorrect referee appointment of a 16-year-old girl, trying to control these half-man half-beast creatures. We had players calling for offsides when it was clearly not, we had full-blooded over-the-top challenges going unpunished and feet going up against the goalkeeper when he went to kick out. Luckily she got through the game and a draw was the right result.
Zach headed off for his triple header refereeing stint, while I returned later in the afternoon for my game – the 35/2 bottom team (that’s us) against Ararat, a team of Armenian expats who are always a good test. Unfortunately we didn’t get out of the blocks, 0-4 at the break and in all sorts of bother, it was time for an empassioned rant from coach Texi. We at least came out fighting and got a couple of goals to go down 2-6. However, that doesn’t tell the tale – two missed penalties and twice hitting the bar tells the real story. Even the Ararat players couldn’t believe that we hadn’t scored in the first half.
The beers went down like magic after the game. Little did we know that it would be the final esky for some time. What else are we going to do now when we’re getting changed after the game? Adam rushed off to watch Sydney FC lift the trophy – another rubbish result for the Premiers in a late defeat against form team Western United.
Sunday was a funny old day. Aurelia had the third bye of the season (what a joke) so it was sleep-ins all round. First action was West Ryde Rovers v North Epping in AA2W, a couple of good women’s teams that play decent football, and I was ready for a lot of running. The windy conditions saw North Epping race to a 2-0 lead in the first half and they were in total control. It didn’t take long however for Rovers to get back into it, shooting with the fierce wind and they eventually got it back to 2-2 with ten minutes remaining.
What happened next was a black mark on my day. After going the whole season so far without having to caution a player with a card, a visiting player took exception to a clumsy challenge and lashed out with a fist. I couldn’t quite believe what I’d just seen and the only result possible was a red card. As is often the case, that was an inflammatory moment and a further yellow card was needed to calm everyone down. The Rovers toiled to get the winner, but in the end it was North Epping, down to ten, who almost snatched the winning goal. A top quality game, marred somewhat by the sending off. Seeing the player in tears after the game didn’t help either.
It was on to the 35/4 game straight after. They were short of players and called me up as an over 40 player. The wind was howling by now. All Saints Hunters Hill scored what has to be one of the best goals seen at this level, wind assisted, but the shot from just over half way arrowed into the top corner of the net. I saw some action in the first half, but it was tough going. The second half saw the scores level soon after the break – a long shot deflected past the goalkeeper and from then it was one way traffic, but 1-1 was the final score. More good beers in the esky!
Sunday night I met up with a mate at Macquarie Ice Rink and took in an ice hockey game. No idea who the teams were – they were the Patriots and the Tigers, what age or skill level nobody knows, but it was thoroughly absorbing. My struggle with ice hockey over the years has been actually seeing the puck, but with a little bit of ice hockey knowledge, seeing the puck all the time is actually no big deal!
The week’s training all went ahead – no rain – Tuesday at Bedlam Bay for Aurelia, Wednesday for Dad back at the Four-tress and Thursday was Meadowbank for Zach and another Bedlam session for Aurelia. And finally on Friday a late session at ELS Hall for Coerver coaching.
A lovely message to end with from an avid reader on Thursday on the news that the esky would be on hold for six weeks at least :
People are definitely reading Unashamed Football Novels and yes, they are enjoying them. Now if I can just convert some of those lovely messages into actual book reviews or something tangible online, we’ll be in business! Stand by for a busy esky-free week