IT’S not very often that a team goes a whole season undefeated – especially at a representative level.
But that’s exactly what the Shoalhaven under 13s side, coached by Jonathan Wright, has just completed.
After winning all 10 of their branch matches, it qualified Wright’s side for the Country Cup for the second straight year.
“Both I and the players from last year’s side learnt a lot from playing at the Country Cup at Yerrinbool in 2017,” Wright said.
“We knew the games were going to be tougher and that a lot of them were going to be determined at set pieces.
“So in the weeks leading in the trip to Wagga Wagga, we practised our set pieces during trial games against the under 13s and under 14s Southern Branch sides, as well as the District under 14s team – giving us as good of preparation as we could have asked for.”
The team’s first game in Wagga was on Saturday against Orange.
“We played an amazing first half against Orange, playing with great confidence,” Wright said.
“We ended up winning 2-nil, thanks to goals from Oliver Ellery and Byron Trethewey.”
The team’s second game on Saturday was against Eurobodalla, a team they defeated during the branch championships.
“I think the boys went into the second game with some complacency,” Wright said.
“Despite this, goals from Ciaran Craig-James and Hayden Musson, secured the 2-1 victory.”
After two wins on Saturday, Wright knew the first match on Sunday was going to be the hardest.
“Dubbo were very physical but to my boys credit, they got stuck in and went into half-time at nil-all,” he said.
“Thankfully we hit the lead with five minutes remaining, thanks to a sharp finish from Jack Norton."
“Dubbo had a chance to respond in the final play of the game but an awesome effort by Geoffrey Keenan shut down their attack and secured the win.”
After three wins, the task at hand was simple against Wagga – win and your team wins the Country Cup, otherwise the hosts would be crowned champions.
“That final game was the strangest game I’ve seen the boys play – not bringing that same confidence from previous games, they lacked some composure, which I put down to nerves,” Wright said.
“This saw us fall behind in the first five minutes before Jack Wheatley levelled the scores, when a cross from seven metres inside halfway floated into the goal."
“The scores then remained tied until Jack Wheatley took a corner towards the end of the half, finding the head of Ciaran Craig-James. We went into half-time 2-1 up."
“After a very tense second half, when final whistle blew, I was just so happy to see all the boys’ hard work pay off, they were so happy – this is the reason why I coach.
“To end two seasons on such a high with this group, in which we won two branch titles and finished first and second at the Country Cup, is perfect.”
Wright thanked the Shoalhaven District Football Association, technical director Mark Johnston and the players’ families for their support.
Squad: Timothy Hopkins ©, Geoffrey Keenan, Tommi Pesu, Ciaran Craig-James, Oliver Ellery, Jack Norton, Byron Trethewey, Daniel Morrison, Keiran Morris, Jack Wheatley, Oscar Hilkemeijer, Owen Waller, Cooper Treweeke, Hayden Musson and Riley Field.