Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Champion Team
Their 4-1 victory over Marconi in this afternoon's grand final provided a perfect illustration of the old cliché that a champion team will always defeat a team of champions. Marconi's Ousmane Toure and Ali Abbas, among others, showed flashes of sublime individual skill. But all their intricate play went to waste in the final third, where the forwards Alex Canak and Erick Anabalon had miserable afternoons.
Sutherland, by comparison, were well-disciplined throughout, keeping their shape, fighting doggedly in defence, and ultimately showing far greater precision in front of goal.
It was significant that the men from the Shire triumphed despite a surprising attack of stage fright on the part of Panny Nikas, who had looked so dangerous in recent weeks. Sluggish and indecisive, the youngster looked unduly awed by the occasion, although a goal at the death will have done his confidence some good. But freezing up in such a high-profile game suggests that he still has to work on his temperament.
George Souris, the Sharks' indestructible veteran, had a fine captain's game at the heart of the defence, blunting several attacks and never losing his concentration. Other star performers for the victors were the tough midfielder Neil Jablonski and...Brad Boardman.
Boardman is a player who polarises opinion. To his detractors (fans of the ethnically-aligned NSWPL clubs, in the main), he is the archetype of the British-style target man, a player who "gets his way" by sheer brawn, and whose skills are virtually non-existent. To his admirers, he is a tireless worker in Sutherland's lone-striker system, who not only performs a thankless task with aplomb but scores goals...lots of them.
He certainly had the last laugh this afternoon. After Marconi had capped a long period of pressure by equalising in the 72nd minute, Sutherland could have been forgiven for dropping their heads for a while. It was Boardman who prevented that from happening, pouncing on a loose ball in the box and blasting it home at the second attempt. It was very much the goal of not just a striker, but a leader.
Boardman laid on the fourth, too, leaving two exhausted Marconi defenders for dead before prodding the ball back for Nikas to seal the win. As those who have regularly visited Seymour Shaw know, Boardman is capable of making goals as well.
In between, there was a gem of a goal, a signature piece from one of the most remarkable partnerships in Australian football. The near-telepathic combination of Jim Bakis and Michael Katz on the Sutherland right clicked once again, as the two sweetly exchanged passes twice, Bakis's final ball releasing Katz for a run along the by-line. Rather than cutting it back as he usually does, this time Katz scored himself, beating James Chronopoulos from the tightest of angles, Amarildo-style.
Finally, a word of congratulation for Robbie Stanton, who has done superbly in his first season as Sutherland coach, lifting the Tiger Turf Cup as well as the NSWPL trophy. And best wishes to one of the Sharks' most loyal fans, the affable Micky Brock. A long-time chronicler of Sutherland's exploits and an amiable companion in the Seymour Shaw media box, Micky suffered a heart attack recently and is still recovering in hospital, unfortunately missing his beloved side's finest moment since 1986. All the best for a full and speedy recovery.