Goodness me! Is that the time? June, already.
It's clearly time we brought our newsletter subscribers up to date with what's happening at Balmain Rovers. As flagged at the beginning of the year, there are now four Balmain Rovers teams, competing in First and Reserves grades in Divisions 3 and 4 of the Canterbury District Soccer Football Association. With our flagship team winning the minor premiership last year (going through the home-and-away season undefeated), we had the option of going up to Div 2, but as we ended up with only half a dozen or so players left from the squad of 32, it was decided to stay in Div 3 and consolidate. The team that last year played in the Reserve grade of Div 4 expanded to form First and Reserve grade teams.
So how are the teams going?
Well, the star team at the moment is undoubtedly the Div 4 First grade team. After 8 rounds, they have lost just one match and sit fairly comfortably atop their ladder. Their nearest rivals are Burwood, the only team to have beaten them. The Div 4 Reserve team is doing pretty well too, currently third on the ladder. Credit has to go to Richard Lyne, Adam Brzrzowski and Fergal Murphy for honing last year's management by committee approach even further.
The Div 3 teams have found the going rather tougher. Given the setup (if the Firsts are promoted, both teams go up; if the Reserves are premiers but the Firsts aren't, neither team goes up), the emphasis has been put on ensuring the First team is as successful as possible. This strategy is working, in that the First grade team has put its first three losses behind it and is now sitting just outside the top four, ready for a strong second half of the season. The down side is that the Reserves are floundering - yet to register a win, bottom of the table and with a goal difference of -28. Ouch.
All of this also means that Balmain Rovers has welcomed something in the region of three dozen new players this year. Each team can claim to have uncovered some real talent, including Mathew Kings, Jim Wragg, Finten Cussen, Michael Penman, Simon Bush, Les Clarke, Duncan Miller, the Reilly brothers, Simon Maclean, Michael Higgins, Kieran File and Marshall Moir. Add to this the ongoing star turns of players who joined us as recently as last year and as long ago as 1998 (Fergal Murphy, Ben Jones, Sergio Fiorenza, Michael Sommers, Nik Hopkins, Bruce Fackerell and Phil Davis to name just a few), and you can see Balmain Rovers is in fine shape.
Those of you who check the Pele Medal and Golden Boot standings on the website will be well aware that I've left out one particular name - mainly because he deserves a paragraph to himself. Last year, Rob Liney scored an unprecedented 32 goals to win the Golden Boot by a very comfortable margin. The Sheffield scoring machine shows no sign of slowing down this year, already having 16 goals to his credit at less than half way through the season (and having missed a few games). Probably his finest day this year was when he followed up a second half double for Div 4 Reserves with a double HAT-TRICK for Firsts. No wonder he's also among the Pele Medal leaders.
Some former players may be wondering if the Association has improved in its running of the competition - well, no. In fact, it's more of a shambles than ever. It does, however, maintain a website again, at which the progress of the various Rovers teams can be monitored in a more-or-less timely manner. On the other hand, Balmain & District Soccer Club continues to be marvellously supportive of the Rovers and the other dozen or so men's teams it fields, but runs a lousy website.
The last thing that requires mention is the injury list. Leaving aside the awkward circumstances in which Andy Farmery was severely injured in pre-season training, players new (Umar Abdat, Rob McLees) and established (Pier D'Angelo) have endured injuries resulting in outages ranging from a few weeks to possibly the whole season. While these injuries have an impact on the teams, of far greater importance is the effect on these guys' working lives off the field. We thank them for their efforts and will do our best to support them and make every endeavour to help cover their costs.
Last newsletter, I mentioned that I would be "restricting my involvement with Balmain Rovers somewhat this year to allow more time for family commitments". This has taken the form of my belatedly registering to play (home games only), following intensive negotiations with my (pregnant) partner. I'm also acting as coordinator for the Balmain Club men's teams this year, at least partly to repay the club's support of our teams during the last six years.
Keep an eye on the website for regular match, Pele Medal and Golden Boot updates.