Ending on a high

This was the final weekend of the season for most, only the Grand Finalists back for more next weekend, so who would end the season on a high, and who would finish with heads in hands. Find out here! Of course GSAP continues almost perpetually, five weeks to go in that one, and plenty of football to be played between now and November 1st.

We start our weekend at Edward Bennett Park in West Pennant Hills, a tricky little place to get to if you don’t know about the club car park. Being the long weekend, there was a worry that the boys would be short of numbers, and that came true when it was injuries and not absences that landed the mighty West Ryde Rovers Under 15 Division 1 team a man short. Unbelievably the Under 14s with a bye and the two Under 13s team playing at 11am, not one player could be found to fill in as the 11th player for this early kick off.

What transpired was a tough battle for 10 man Rovers, the top-quality home team West Penno looking to wrap up the Premiership with a comfortable win. It was roasting hot, unseasonably warm, and the Rovers did very well to go in only 1-0 down at the break, young Zach getting his first yellow card of the season for retaliating to a hand in the face. There was comedy from the home team, one of the Dads turned up in black shirt, shorts and socks pulled up and took on the role as an official assistant referee. It wasn’t particularly convincing, given that Under 15s don’t get assistant referees.

Rovers were further reduced soon after the break with a nasty looking head injury leaving the undermanned Rovers even lighter in numbers. A call of “Yeah, where’s your Mum” was just the start. The ugly part of West Penno’s character was emerging, some unnecessary goading of their understrength opponents and some ridiculously poor banter. They were well and truly in control at 6-0 but just couldn’t help themselves.

A strong but unremarkable challenge that conceded a corner left the West Penno striker on the ground. The referee, a vastly experienced whistler, watched on as the striker had what can only be described as a meltdown, convulsing like a toddler at the non-award of a penalty. A swift yellow card should have put an end to the charade, but he inexplicably kept on going and the red was brandished. The jeers from the Rovers contingent were in acknowledgement of the instant karma for the rubbish talk being dished out all second half. As the realisation came that the striker had effectively ruled himself out of next weekend’s Grand Final, he burst into tears on the sideline. Yes ‘where’s your Mum’ indeed. Whilst I’m not one for that sort of nonsense, the poetic justice was not lost on those watching – if you talk the talk you’ve got to walk the walk.

A 7-0 final scoreline was the right result, and given other scores this season dished out by the home team, the Rovers got off quite lightly – this West Penno team has some extremely talented players. The referee had to manage the home contingent who were trying to coax him out of the red card, there were barbs being thrown at the Rovers, it wasn’t a pretty situation.

Coaches Steve and Henry, and manager Terry, were awarded for their perseverance this season with gifts and kind words as the parents thanked them for believing in their sons. It was a tough end to an enjoyable season, hopefully the players will be back next year for more.

Zach headed for Meadowbank field 4 for his triple header assistant referee shift, but we move on to Monash Park for the second game of the day, the 35/4s having snatched second place last weekend, taking on league leaders All Saints Hunters Hill in the 33 degree heat of the middle of the day. They had to win and hope that the third placed team didn’t beat their score by four goals or more. They were 1-0 up at the break, JC having reacted first when a shot hit the bar to stroke the ball home, but had hit the bar on four other occasions, Ronnie somehow hitting the bar twice from one shot, the ball bouncing high and back on to the bar and away. The second half was more of the same, one way traffic, Rovers looking for more. I had to leave it at about 60 minutes to get to my game, but they were on the attack and looking good. We’ll come back to the result.

Today was definitely the final game of the season for the 35/2s, and it was 5th placed Ararat against 6th placed Rovers in a shoot out to see who would finish top of the bottom half. Ararat won 6-2 last time, but were looking a little light on numbers for this one. A minute’s silence to recognise the conflict in Armenia was requested by the home team and was well received. The game was only five minutes old when the Ararat striker asked to swap with the goalkeeper, and soon after decided to take himself off the field altogether with a damaged back, leaving his team with ten.

The wind was fierce by now, across the field which is bouncy at the best of times, and neither side could master the conditions. That was until the Rovers superstar Sjonni raced down the left and swirled in a teasing cross that curved in the wind, Marty keeping his eyes fixed on it and heading home for 1-0. It was just the tonic for the Rovers. It was a real struggle of a half, the six subs on the sideline being used continuously to combat the blustery and hot conditions. Half time came and went, Rovers 1-0 up and a man up too. Surely the floodgates would open.

The second half was unfortunately more of the same. There was little to cheer about as the ball was continually being fished out of the mangroves, and the time-wasting of the home team was as annoying as it would have been if we were the team down to ten men. Most players were content to rotate through the subs. There was a personal vendetta against our player Rod, who was getting more and more fired up as the game progressed and he ended up on the floor and getting into scrapes, at one stage the referee appearing to lose track of what was happening. There were yellow cards for the home team for some agricultural challenges, while Rovers came closer and closer to a second, Texi just past the post from a free kick, and the woodwork saved Ararat on two occasions. A 1-0 win was all the Rovers could muster in the end, and a game of exceedingly low quality ended in hand-shakes and well-wishes for the long break ahead.

The buoyant mood of the 35/4s who had appeared just before half time full of adrenaline and endorphins after their important win had gone completely. News had filtered through of the third placed team racking up a five goal lead and then missed a penalty. A late sixth goal load then secured their spot on the Grand Final at the expense of the Rovers. Agony! What a way to miss out. Still, the beers flowed, the shirts were collected and the final man of the match points were collected as the 35/2s toasted their ugly win.

That was the end of the football fun for Saturday, and unfortunately the change in clocks meant that I slept through the Newcastle win against Burnley at 5am. Next stop, Belmore Sportsground for the GSAP clash between Sydney Olympic and Gladesville Ravens.

Ravens were under the cosh from early on in this game against their much stronger opponents. The conditions were hot hot hot, all spectators seeking cover under the trees on the hill surrounding the field. Ravens had only nine of their own players so had four of the Under 12 team involved. Two own goals and a heavily offside breakaway goal (GSAP are encouraged to play on for offsides unless it is blatantly way off) coupled with two screamers made it 0-5 at half time. To their credit though, the Ravens stuck at it and looked the fitter of the two teams in the second half. A solitary goal and some fabulous scrambling kept the score at six, and Olympic knew that they had been in a contest in the second half. Another four games potentially for the Ravens before the season ends and we move into the trials period for next season already.

There was a refereeing appointment to complete the weekend, All Age 9 at Meadowbank and that ended 2-0 to West Ryde over a valiant West Penno team. Another game almost ruined by the wind, and some spiky characters on the field made for some choice moments, but there were no yellow cards in the end and the potential flash point of a collision between striker and keeper well outside the area was waved away as play on. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of the West Penno Under 15s player who was assistant referee with me regarding yesterday’s events in the game at Edward Bennett park. Vastly different views of the same incident!

The ridiculous scorelines in the Premier League were something else to wake up to, Liverpool dismantled by Villa 7-2 and Spurs demolishing Man United 6-1. The appetite whetted then for a second appointment of the long weekend, an Under 18s clash with already qualified All Saints and the Rovers sitting way behind.

All Saints started like a team playing for fun, their Grand Final berth secure, and they raced to a four goal lead against West Ryde Rovers, who were no match for the superior attacking play. Rovers squandered their main chance, a penalty weakly hit by the Rovers keeper who had to then scramble back to his own box to thwart the breakaway. The second half though was very different, Rovers controlled large parts and looked much better. It was a penalty for All Saints that made it five, their regular goalkeeper, playing out in search of a goal, ramming the ball home and then assaulting the corner flag as his teammates rejoiced with him, earning a yellow card. Rovers did get a consolation, and had another chalked off for a late offside call.

That was the end of the action, Tuesday brought training for Aurelia at Bedlam Bay, the sunshine giving the picturesque venue a real summery edge.

There was no training for Texi on Wednesday, or for Zach on Thursday, but another Bedlam session on Thursday night saw Aurelia recover from a rolled ankle to get her second football fix of the week.

Summer soccer was meant to start for both Aurelia and myself, however some players still involved in finals and a lack of opponents for the girls saw both competitions delayed. We now gear up for Grand Final day, and some games on our doorstep on the weekend, but only a smattering of Rovers teams involved.

The week wouldn’t be complete without some book news. We’re still 100% committed to bringing out book four this November – Anna Black – This Girl Can Play the title of the new one – and this week saw some guidance from my publisher, Fair Play Publishing into how to make the novel the best that it can be. I’m on to it, and still confident of making the deadline of the end of the month to be ready for the Football Writers Festival in late November. A bit of pressure always helps to get things done quicker.

It was also encouraging to see Jarrod Black Guilty Party on sale on Amazon in kindle format 5 months after it was released in paperback in May. They really seen like a law unto themselves at Amazon towers, and it remains a mystery why the kindle version wasn’t out at the same time.

That’s all for this week. Full coverage of a lot of random Grand Finals coming up, although I am set to take charge of the W30/1 final on Sunday which should be a cracker. See you next week!

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