Newsletter - Wednesday 22 August 2001
This newsletter is published weekly with the generous assistance of the Orange Grove Hotel - an excellent place for post-game refreshments.
Balmain Rovers fields teams in Premier League Division 4 (Firsts & Reserves) of the Canterbury & District Soccer Football Association competition.
MATCH REPORT 1: Reserves
OUR SPONSOR: The Grove
MATCH REPORT 2: Firsts
STANDINGS: Medal, Boot
Match Report 1
Beaten for Speed
Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Abbotsford Reserves
Edwards Park, Concord
Sat 18 August 2001
Report by Ricky Onsman
In their debut season, Balmain Rovers Reserves reached the Grand Final. There it is, in black and white. The team of new boys, built around a core of Sam Tekin and Emrys Hughes, played 13 home and away games to record seven wins and two draws, scoring 44 goals in the process. They won the Minor Semi Final 3-0 and the Preliminary Final 4-0, to reach the Grand Final against an Abbotsford side that had come through without a single loss or even a drawn match.
With that introduction, it should be clear that the Rovers need no excuses or beg-your-pardons - they have shown themselves to be a competitive side this season. The truth of the matter is that they entered the Grand Final able to field just 11 of their 16 players - Paul Smith was injured, Emrys had the flu, Sohail had no ID card, Dorian did not make himself available and Donny was saved to play for the Firsts, who had been reduced to ten men for their Grand Final.
The other unavoidable truth about this game is that Abbotsford wanted the win - a lot. They are a team of high school mates who entered this comp to stay together as a team, and they knew they were on the cusp of a special achievement - going through a season winning every match. They were mostly young, fast and aggressive. They expected a tough match from Balmain Rovers and decided to play the game hard and fast from the first minute.
The conditions verged on the ridiculous, with a ferocious, blustery gale sweeping from one end of the pitch to the other. Still, Abbotsford started against the wind and still managed to be 2-0 up at half-time. They did this by playing to their strengths, firing short sharp passes between players running into spaces, and charging the opposition whenever they lost possession of the ball.
It didn't help that the referee was inexperienced and was unsure of how heavily to control the game. His early unwillingness to penalise Abbotsford's fouls on and off the ball gave the youngsters licence to play the game as they pleased. Balmain was nonplussed by this approach, to say the least. Sam dropped back to help the backline of Wrighty, Ricky and Lachie, but that left holes in midfield, and did nothing to stop Abbotsford's opportunistic attempts on goal, where Browny found himself stranded once on the goal line as a shot went through at shoulder height and once sprawling unavailingly to stop a low shot into the corner.
Meanwhile, the four man Rovers forward line pushed forward several times to threaten the Abbotsford goal without luck. Millard and Ammon had the skills to outplay their opponents, but were finding it hard to avoid elbows, knees and deliberate kicks. The ref issued warnings which were simply ignored.
Balmain Rovers' mood was subdued at half-time. After the two early goals, they had done well to stop the rot and share control of the match to some extent. However, there was no obvious means to take charge of this match, with only one substitute - redoubtable Mikee Sommers - on the bench. And this time, Abbotsford would have the wind.
As it turned out, Abbotsford used the wind much better than Balmain - by ignoring it. They continued to play low and fast, criss-crossing the ball across the pitch, running into space and challenging furiously, if often foully. A punch to Ammon's face brought out the protective side of big brother James and for a moment it looked like a full-on brawl would develop. A word from the more experienced assistant referee prompted changed tactics from the ref, who started to blow the whistle often, and often needlessly. Having issued several yellow cards already, first an Abbotsford player and then Millard earned second yellows and left the field.
By this time, Abbotsford had shot another goal past Browny, who had also blocked several more - and been charged boots-first several times. At the other end, an Abbotsford player handled the ball in the penalty box and Sam made no mistake with the resultant penalty. Ricky was adjudged to have blocked a shot with his arm across his chest in the Rovers penalty box, but the tall Brown one dived for a magnificent save - probably Rovers' single best moment of the game. Ammon came off to rest for the Firsts game, while Mikee came on and immediately messed around the Abbotsford defenders. Without Millard, however, it was hard to get the ball into shooting position.
Abbotsford cracked one last goal into the Balmain net to give them a 4-1 win and the Championship. There is no doubt in my mind that Abbotsford deserved to win the match. They played hard, fast and often skilful football, without the slightest respect for the referee, the sport or their opponents. Frankly, I wouldn't want to win a competition that way, but they did.
The Pele points go to:
Sam - 1 - played with intelligence, courage and skill
Browny - 1 - stopped way more goals than he let in
Ammon - 1 - played with his usual grace and skill
Adam - 1 - fearless in his forward work, despite filthy challenges
Johnny - 1 - kept the opposition busy with his running and passing
James - 1 - battled (!) away in midfield without just reward
This newsletter is sponsored by the fabulous folks at
The Orange Grove Hotel 31 Balmain Rd, Leichhardt Ph 9810 1435
Table football * pool table * pokies * TAB * cable sports TV
Regular live music * Friday night raffle
Drop in to Crocetti's, the Grove's new family restaurant
Match Report 2
Balmain Rovers 4A v Abbotsford
Edwards Park, Concord
Sat 18 August 2001
Report by Ricky Onsman
Unlike the preceding match, this one was the culmination of four years' effort on the part of Balmain Rovers. Although only Sergio, Glenn, Pier and Michael remained of the 1998 Originals (Joey was part of the Earlwood team whence the team originated, but didn't play for Rovers until 1999), this squad was mindful of their opportunity to create a little team history on this day.
Once again, promotion was not at stake, having been secured simply by reaching the Grand Final. However, a motivation even stronger than team glory was the prospect of setting things right. No-one blames Abbotsford for getting an extra three points when Canterbury was found to have used an illegal player in a match that Canterbury had won. And no-one disputes that had Abbotsford come second to Balmain Rovers at the end of the regular season, those two teams would still have played the Major Semi Final and Abbotsford may still have won, as they did two weeks ago.
And yet, there was the feeling that it shouldn't have happened like this. Balmain certainly hadn't planned to play the Grand Final without Carlos (back in Ireland), Tim (back in England), Nik (on holiday), Kon (in Melbourne), Andy (torn calf muscle) AND Jeremy (absent, possibly aggrieved). A fresh Donny and somewhat weary Browny from Reserves bolstered the ten man starting lineup, with Michael and the somewhat wearier Reserves Ammon, James, Ricky and Wrighty on the bench.
The wind, of course, was still blowing crazy, but the Reserves match had shown there were ways to play both with and against the gale. The match was certainly played in a better spirit than the Reserves' game, much of it resembling a chess game, with attacking moves constructed and parried on both sides. Both goalkeepers were called on to make saves ranging from simple to desperate, and the struggle was dour on all parts of the pitch.
That the battle was so evenly balanced only made those on the sideline wonder how it would have been if Rovers had been able to field a more complete complement of its regular 16. Despite energetic performances from Sergio, Ally and Joey up front and grinding work from Pier in midfield, it was the cover defence of Gary, Donny and Glenn that dominated the half, with Denis at his rock-like best between the sticks. It took a sharp piece of work by the Abbotsford forwards to slip one past the Rovers keeper. However, it wasn't long before a goalmouth melee allowed Browny to scramble an equaliser for Balmain Rovers, leaving the match balanced at 1-1 at half-time.
While Balmain had the wind with them in the second half, it didn't provide much advantage, picking up high balls and sending them careering over the sidelines. It did, however, prevent the Abbotsford keeper getting much distance on his clearing kicks, thus keeping the ball in the Abbotsford half for much of the time. Ammon came on for Clem, but found his usually penetrating runs being stymied by a determined Abbotsford defence.
When Abbotsford managed to run the ball forward, they largely squandered their chances. The best example of this was, when awarded a penalty, the Abbotsford striker managed to thump it straight at Denis, who gave the ball a cuddle before releasing it back into the wild. Most of the action was in the Abbotsford half, though, where Pier was working his heart out in winning the ball, and particularly in nullifying the efforts of the redheaded Abbotsford playmaker, and Browny was laying the ball wide for Ally, Joey and Ammon or pushing it through for Eddie to run onto.
Abbotsford was still pushing forward whenever it could, and it was just when the spectators were dreading the thought of extra time in the now sunless, increasingly cold wind that an Abbotsford player slapped a rebounding ball past Denis to score their second goal.
Sergio brought himself off for Mikee, providing fresh legs up front in the hope of scoring an equaliser, but the clock was against the Rovers. And so the Grand Final slipped away. No-one played badly, no-one failed anyone else. It just didn't come together on the day - the one day when it would've been great if it HAD come together. Still, Balmain Rovers have a lot to be proud of, not least promotion to the Premier League Division 3 next year.
The Pele points go to:
Pier - 3 - great work rate, shut down the Abbotsford danger man
Denis - 2 - a top game from an unsung hero for Rovers this year
Browny - 1 - calm, cool, collected - and collected a goal
How about a little six-a-side over the Summer?
Final Award Standings
18 - Paul Edwards
17 - Ammon Mackie
16 - Craig Brown
14 - Paul Millard
12 - Gary van Heugten
11 - Andy Farmery
10 - Kon Tsalikis
9 - Tim Hinds, Sam Tekin
8 - Nick Hopkins
7 - Glenn Bacic, Pier D'Angelo, Emrys Hughes
6 - John Barker, David Birds, Joey Nicotra, Ricky Onsman
5 - Denis Jozic, Donny Nicholas, Paul Smith
4 - Alister Haining, Ian Ladkin, James Mackie, David Wright
3 - Lachlan Mackie
2 - Sergio Fiorenza, Matt Clementson
1 - Eddie Briggs, Sohail Dahdal, Adam Freeman, Carlos Morata
18 - Ammon Mackie
13 - Paul Edwards
12 - Paul Millard
8 - Gary van Heugten
7 - Sam Tekin
6 - Alister Haining
4 - Craig Brown, James Mackie
3 - Sergio Fiorenza, Tim Hinds, Dorian Nkono
2 - Pier D'Angelo, Andy Farmery, Emrys Hughes, Nick Hopkins
1 - David Birds, Eddie Briggs, Sohail Dahdal, Ben Jones, Carlos Morata, Joey Nicotra
The Balmain Rovers Awards Lunch will be held at the Nosh Pit Restaurant in the Annandale Hotel from 2.30pm on Saturday 1 September. Partners, friends and family are most welcome to attend. As at the mid-season do, it will be $20 per person and meals will be preselected from a set menu which Ricky will distribute shortly.
Please note the restaurant will be smoke-free for the lunch - smokers can nip outside or inside to the bar.
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