West Ryde Rovers Over 35s went on their annual pilgrimage to Canberra this weekend to take part in the Woden Valley Vets Shield tournament. A horrible weekend for weather could not dampen the enthusiasm, as Rovers went in search of that elusive first title.
The Rovers squad, cobbled together from a nucleus of Rovers 35s players, arrived in town on the Friday night, with a few stragglers making the journey down early on Saturday morning. A 10am kick off gave us time to set up marquees as the rain lashed down, and by the time the first game started, we had a base camp set up with BBQ and plenty of shelter for everyone.
Game 1 pitted the mighty Rovers against the Brindabella Beavers, and a dominant performance resulted in a flurry of goals to win the game 6-1. Last year’s golden boot winner Ian grabbed a couple and the Sydneysiders were off and running, the 20 minute halves more than enough time to rack up a handy scoreline.
After a 90 minute break where haloumi, sausages and kebabs made an appearance, game 2 brought the Rovers up against UC Stars. A commanding first half performance had the scoreboard looking healthy at 3-0, but a tough slog of a second half resulted in no goals. Rovers were now poised for a duel against the much-fancied Weston Creek, themselves scoring freely all morning.
By now we had endured heavy rainfall, the sun had been out and the puddles on the fields were starting to dry out. Bobby scored a fantastic goal in this one, bundling through a number of challenges to score, but the game will be remembered for a tactical masterstroke from team coach Al. Soaking up the first half pressure, 0-0 the right score after 20 difficult minutes, Rovers came out and attacked in the second half. They got their goal and then won a penalty, Robbie given a nudge in the box, and Al confidently slotted the ball home to give them a 2-0 win and to top the group.
The game will also be remembered for two injuries. Ian copped a knee injury that ruled him out for the rest of the tournament, while Joey’s left nut copped a studs up challenge, drawing blood in an eye-watering end to the game.
Tails were up at this point and Rovers had qualified for the semi-finals the next morning. A great day for football despite the muddy conditions.
Of course, a Canberra weekend wouldn’t be complete without a big night, and afternoon turned into evening over a few well-earned cold ones.
The AFL Grand Final was the backdrop to a magnificent meal at the Harmonie Club, with an outrageous display of meats in the German Experience, washed down with some slightly obscure beers from Germany. There was a quick trip to the casino to take in West Ham v Man City until tiredness and meat sweats took us back to the hotel to crash for the night. Lots of red faces with the sun having caught out even the most ardent of sunblock users
A fine breakfast over the Liverpool vs Sheff Utd game, and it was time to return to Mawson District playing fields for the finals series. A winnable game saw the Rovers up against Gunghalin United, and the first half was going to plan, Al unable to force the ball past the keeper with a header from a wonderful move, before opting to shoot and hitting the bar. Steve also rattled the bar as Rovers looked to press home the advantage, which made the arrival of the first goal a surprise, a corner to the Canberra team thumped home from six yards.
No panic at half time, but before the half-time plan could be put in play, Gunghalin struck again, a somewhat soft free kick awarded outside the area, neatly dispatched into the top right hand corner for 2-0. Two became three, it was Ming and Matt who were left scratching their heads as the attacker somehow kept the ball in and a neat cross was deftly headed in for 3-0. Rovers pressed and pressed, but it was all in vain, the final score a disappointing way to bow out of this fantastic tournament.
The players were back in Sydney before the final was over.
And so the third edition of the Canberra weekend comes to a close. As with previous years, a fantastic Saturday on the park was matched with a fine Saturday evening off it, but at the expense of any sort of form coming in to the second day. A big thanks to Woden Valley Soccer Club for organising and persisting despite the conditions. Rovers will be back next year, bigger and better, and next time we’re going to win it. Up the Rovers!