Some people are on the pitch…

The 2020 local league season came to a conclusion as the top two teams from each division went head to head in the Grand Final. A marvellously Australian creation, the Grand Final totally cheapens the Premiership crown, but provides a cup final-like atmosphere across the most dramatic two days of football of the year. This year’s shortened season meant that we didn’t get the chance to see the 3rd and 4th best teams vying for the Champions crown – that last happened during a monsoon-like season some six years ago. This year it was a straight shoot out between 1 and 2, with a 1 in 7 chance of it being a repeat of the previous week’s last game of the regular season.

Saturday was spent down at Meadowbank Park, the BBQ cranking and with the Covid restrictions recently eased, the crowds were out in force too. The LH Waud field was the first visit as Holy Cross knocked over a valiant Northern HFC in Under 18 Division 4 – this didn’t look like a lower division game, the pace was high and the football bright.

We moved on to Meadowbank No 3 for the last twenty minutes of the Under 12 Division 4 final which pitted Beecroft against Ryde Panthers. It was all Beecroft, but Ryde Panthers held out and won 2-1. Good honest football at that age group. The traditional gathering for the trophy presentation, the giving of medals and the manager speeches was shelved for Covid reasons, so the medals were simply collected from the marquee and handed out by the teams. A nice touch with the winners shields, the winning teams details ‘engraved’ on the trophy by the time they were picked up.

The early afternoon game back on LH Waud involved Gladesville Ravens, a team filled with players I played with many years ago, up against Eastwood St Andrews. The sun was ferocious by now, hot and still, and the two teams served up a treat, Ravens getting up 1-0. There was a good contingent of familiar faces in the shade at the Car Park End which gave the game a good atmosphere. The referee rotunda was a buzz of activity, all games completely covered with centre referees, assistants and sometimes 4th officials. Referees Grant and Tom were even miked up during the All Age 3 Grand Final!

Meanwhile the Rovers 35/4 team met up for barefoot bowls at Gladesville Sporties, still licking their wounds after being denied a Grand Final appearance the week before by a single goal on goal difference. They had completely forgotten about it after a couple of schooners and once the All Saints Hunters Hill and Gladesville Ravens players walked in with their medals for their celebrations, everyone was back in love with football!

Sunday morning was a reminder that top level football is still on. A very early start for the Under 12s and Under 14s for 8am kick offs at Christie Park, the home of football, with the Gladesville Ravens GSAP Under 13s kicking off a little later as the heat returned. St George were the visitors – I never found out if it was St George FA or St George FC – but Ravens were valiant in defeat, a 3-0 reverse but a very good performance from the girls. There are players who have improved out of sight, players who have grown physically during the course of the season and who now look like football players. With four games of the season to go, their minds should now be thoroughly on the upcoming trials for the 2021 season.

So, the afternoon took Texi to Morrison Bay for another afternoon of Championship football. First up was my Grand Final appointment, the Over 30 Division 1. This was a game played in great spirit between favourites and Premiers Epping FC and a more experienced Gladesville Ravens. Ex-matilda Moya Dodd played a cameo in the first half, showing some class. Epping went 1-0 up thanks to a fabulous move, a defence splitting pass, a suspicion of offside waved away and the finish deadly.

A half time break to cool down gave way to a second half where the Ravens half-time team-talk went out of the window, a beautiful low shot into the corner making it 2-0 and the game seemed destined for a healthy scoreline. But it wasn’t to be. A late rally from the Ravens saw a cross boomed in and a deft header brought the game back to 2-1. A grandstand finish never materialised though and Epping held on to take out the crown for 2020. The game was televised live on Cluch TV!

Nice touch to get a medal for a Grand Final appearance. Then it was across to Field 2 to see the Rovers AA2 against Premiers North Epping. I’ve reffed both of these teams this year and North Epping should really have been in Div 1. In this one though they were snuffed out by the Rovers, boasting a very talented centre-forward who scored the first goal and hit the post soon after. The goal that sealed it was a corner that whipped straight into the goal, taking full advantage of the breeze. It was great to watch the Rovers win, alongside some ex-Rovers players from the Sharks who had just finished their game.

Walking the dog afterwards at Meadowbank, the Rovers committee were finishing their day, and I joined for a quick beer. An escaped pet cockatoo that had been hanging around the BBQ and helping himself rocked up along with a lady from WIRES, the animal welfare society. I left referee guru Tom trying to coax the bird out of a tree with a slice of bread while the lady tried to catch it. Quite the scene!

So we returned to Bedlam Bay for training this week, Aurelia the only one left still playing. Once again, I cannot believe how pretty this venue is. I was on both legs of the journey as our usual car pooler Rylie from the Under 11s wasn’t training this week. No problem! Picnic blanket, laptop, sunshine. A fantastic office for the afternoon. Aurelia had a great time at both training sessions, alas a 50th bye for the season (okay that’s an exaggeration) means there’s no game on the weekend.

So to Friday, and I had remarked all week how good it was to see the posts still up at Meadowbank Park. Alas, they were all gone by the evening dog walk, and lo-and-behold there they were – the whites of the cricketers straight onto the action to condemn the football season to the past.

And then to Saturday, a weekend without football, but a great opportunity to meet up with the “Meadowbank Ultras” – Pablo and Stuart – both experts in football and in writing about the beautiful game. A quick bite to eat at the cafe by the ferry wharf turned in to a whole morning of quality chat. This is an event that has legs (as you can see from the photos). With more football people guesting in the future for this ‘football movement’, it has the potential to become something special.

Finally, a word about Unashamed Football Novel number 4. The second edit has been submitted to Fair Play Publishing this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished article for the final sign off. It’s a punishing process, from submitting the first draft to signing off for printing, and again the approaching Football Writers Festival acts as a deadline which puts the pressure on. Look out for Anna Black – This Girl Can Play coming very soon.

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