17 Sep Mens 3rd Grade Grand Final: If you can’t win the fight, win the match
Throughout the year; two PL3 sides stood clear of the rest of the ladder. By the end of the regular season Easts and Ryde had destroyed everyone in their path and it was therefore only fitting that they should be there on Saturday, sitting on the sidelines, watching their PL4 teams duke it out.
Yes somehow these two mighty teams had been knocked out in the semis the week before. Sydney Uni took out Ryde with a complete team performance; stalking them until the final minutes of extra time before ruthlessly executing a short corner with our season on the line. It remained a mystery, however, how Moorebank managed to overcome the usually irresistible Easts attack to emerge victorious to the Grand Final.
It didn’t take long on the pitch to work out what had happened. Moorebank’s tactics were simple yet very effective: challenge everything, take the short corners when they come, and hit the player hard. And late. And often. The open, fluid game of chess that we played against Ryde the week before had been thrown out of the window in favour of an all in brawl in which we were underprepared and punching well outside our weight class.
Full credit to Moorebank: this had us rattled hard in the first half. We were throwing everything at them but could not execute our skills under the immense pressure being applied. A precision drag flick from Moorebank’s first short corner of the match had them leading 1-0 at the main break and effectively silenced the massive SUHC supporter base that had turned out for our lone chance at a Mens Premiership this season.
The biggest 5 minutes of our season came whilst sitting quietly in the sheds, listening to club president Ant McInnes lay out the plan of attack for the second half: Don’t panic.
And we didn’t. The enduring image of the second half will always be that of Ed Ringwood, having again been shoved off the ball in the circle, standing tall against the Moorebank defender and letting them know EXACTLY what he thought of them. By that stage we were standing strong against the onslaught and the crowd was back on their feet.
Repeated circle penetrations led to a flurry of short corners but our usual weapon was being consistently shut down by the incredible pace of Moorebank’s first runner. Eventually our short corner caller and Potential Coach of the Year Candidate Jeremy Phillips-Yelland (votes open) identified that his nemesis was on the sidelines and quickly did what he does best – called the short for himself. A clinical slap across the goal face from Nick Johnston* was expertly guided in to level the scores at 1-1.
Despite the Uni defence operating almost flawlessly across the park; Moorebank were not chanceless in the second half with Potential Young Player of the Year Candidate Calam Baird (votes open) expertly diffusing a one on one opportunity.
The fourth quarter saw the benefit of our slew of quality midfield options; with a still fresh Hayden Boyd taking charge of the centre of the pitch. His skill over the ball and relentless back-tackling on turnovers left the whole stadium feeling like he alone owned the ball. This weight of possession eventually led to Adi Khanna’s surge toward the box being predictably hacked short – earning the pivotal short corner of the match.
Indecisiveness chose a funny time to strike as we injected the ball, still uncertain of which variation to unleash. Chaos reigned instead and in the ensuing scuffle for the ball Potential Mens MVP Candidate Nick Johnston* (votes open) found a way to backstick a bouncing pass across the face of goal.
Having spent 20 years as a fullback screaming at strikers to stick to the post, it was Jez who found himself standing in prime position to finesse the ball over the line for the 2-1 lead with 6 minutes remaining.
Moorebank still refused to give up and sent wave after wave of attacking raids towards our goal line. Led by Potential Social Man of the Year Candidate Joe Visser (votes open) and Nick Jobson in his best performance of the season, our forward line out hustled their distributers and turned the screws on the opposition whilst the clock ticked down. They eventually found a way to break through and it was only a desperate dive, showing total disregard for his own safety, from Grand Final Man of the Match and Potential Defender of the Year Candidate Simon Nortje (votes open) that stopped Moorebank from levelling the scores with two minutes to go.
So 2-1 remained the final score and anyone who saw our team attempt one on ones at training sighed with relief that we’d wrapped it up in regulation.
A special thank you goes out from Potential Social Team of the Year Candidate Mens 3s (votes open) to all the club members who filled in for us at games, cheered us throughout the season, cooked the BBQs, umpired games, brought their dogs, celebrated with us and put up with our generally medium quality banter. You’ve all helped us come together as a team and spurred us on to bring home another trophy to the mighty SUHC.