Monday, September 20, 2010

A HUGE Weekend

First order of business: Friday night's football.
Turns out the Mapies were the "omenous" ones!
Collingwood blitzed Geelong with intense unrelenting pressure and the Cats had no answer.
Like all discerning footy fans I hate Collingwood but I can acknowledge how well they played and how much they deserved to win. The Cats have been up for a long time and got some sweet rewards for their time at the top but all good things come to an end some time and Friday night was the end for my beloved Cats.

My only hope is that StKilda can do what we couldn't and knock off the Magpies to win the premiership.
Carn the Saints!

My sadness about the Cats was short-lived because on Saturday morning I got one of the best prizes I've ever had. Cornerstone won the Cup Final!
It was absolutely fabulous.
Readers will remember that Sport Boy's soccer team, the Cornerstone Giants, won through to the Knock-out Cup Final of the LNJSA 13's Premier League with victories over GMAS in the first round and Dunsborough in the semi-final. We were up against the Busselton Redbacks who won the league title, going through the season undefeated and with a goal difference of +37 (ie. they score 37 more goals than they conceded!). They beat us both times we played them. We finished 5th on the ladder at the end of the season. No-one expected us to win, in fact no-one even really gave us a chance, but I had a plan!

The game was at Margaret River at 9.00 o'clock Saturday morning.
We had a scare the night before. Sport Boy and I went to the Esplanade with Pop for dinner and to watch the footy  because our TV gets very poor GWN reception and we wanted to have a decent picture to watch the game. (By half time with the result clear we decided  we could put up with a lousy picture to match the lousy result and went home to watch the second half). Before that Sport Boy was still hungry so we got him a bowl of wedges. He happily munched away on them until a look of doom suddenly appeared on his face as he remembered that wedges contain gluten (in the flour & spice coating they're cooked in). Sport Boy is gluten intolerant and eating it can make him sick for days!
I hadn't realised either and we were both worried that he would get sick and not be able to play soccer in the morning. I rang Mrs Holt Press to tell her what had happened: "Hi. Don't get mad. Just help us know what to do..." She was pretty confident that he would be able to handle the relatively small amount of gluten and that it wouldn't have an immediate effect so he should be right for the game. I felt reassured as did Sport Boy. I prayed with him when we got home and apart from the footy result the night worked out pretty well.

Come Saturday morning he was showing no ill effects and we set off for Margaret River. Mrs Holt Press had decided not to come so she could go up to Perth with Pop and Greenie and be sure of getting to the wedding on time.

When I pulled up at the soccer ground a bloke pointed out that I had a flat tyre! I'm glad he spotted it cause if I hadn't noticed it it would have caused a major drama and time delay in me getting away after the game. I rang Graeme and he and a group of the soccer Dads came and fixed it while I went and got the team ready for the game.

I had put a lot of thought into our tactics for the game. I knew that if we just went and played our normal game we would lose. To have any chance of winning we needed a different strategy and a changed line-up.
The key was to strengthen our defence and make it harder for Redbacks to score then try and score on a breakaway or from a free kick. With this as my plan I lined the kids up in an unorthodox 4,2,2,2 formation, creating in effect a 6 man defense, 2 in midfield and 2 forwards. I brought Ben C  back to partner Jozeph in defence and Sport Boy back from his usual striker position to partner Josh just in front of the back 4. 
I hoped that by clogging up the defence we could stifle Busselton's attacks and then send long balls to our forwards to try and score on the rebound. I figured that if we were to win it would be by 1-0.

It worked perfectly! In fact it worked so well it was even better than I'd hoped. Not only did the defenders stop Redbacks from scoring or even creating many chances, but our midfield were inspired and continually cut through their defense with great passing to feed our forwards so that in the end we had a lot more chances than Busselton. Every kid in the team played well, they were great and because of how well they were playing their confidence grew and the opposition began to struggle. We had more scoring chances and looked more dangerous and on the odd occasion when Busselton did penetrate, Ben A in goal made great saves and clearances to further deny them. It was 0-0 at half time and I told the kids the game was there for the taking: if they kept playing that well the goal would come. Sport Boy was playing brilliantly, beating Chris M, not only the best player for Redbacks but the best player in the league, in a couple of one-on-one situations. Jozeph was inspired and time and again he raced back to beat his man and win the ball before sending it forward again.

The ref did a great job, paying every free kick that occurred (something that usually didn't happen throughout the season!) and 80% of them were to Cornerstone. Several of them were in potential scoring positions but we hadn't been able to capitalise until finally, at the 15 minute mark of the second half we got a free kick about 5 metres outside the penalty area. 
This was our moment!
We had practised and prepared for just such a situation. This was our chance.
Redbacks had 2-3 really big kids, way taller than anyone in our team, in fact our fleet of forwards and midfielders, Josh, Callum, Jacob and Paul looked like mosquitoes buzzing around the feet of dinosaurs at times. The Redbacks wall was filled with these big kids, a smart move by them.
Ben C had the responsibility to take the kick.
He lined it up, stepped up to the ball and struck the sweetest free-kick you could ever hope to see, chipping it over the wall and the out-stretched arms of the goalie and into the roof of the net!
It was sublime, perfect, magnificent and stunning.
As we erupted in cheers on the sidelines the whole team mobbed Ben and danced and celeabrated his goal and our 1-0 lead. I picked Graeme up in a bear hug and we danced for joy on the sideline.

Cornerstone Giants: Cup Winners 2010
Jemma, Georgia, Jozeph, Jacb, Graeme, Jack, Morgan, Josh, Ben C, Me, Callum, Tim
Sport Boy, Georgie, Jarrad, Ben A


Then came the most nerve-wracking final 10 minutes imaginable! Busselton responded as a good team should and redoubled their efforts to score but time and again they were unable to get through as the defence thwarted them with heroic determination. A couple of timely substitutions helped steady the team and as the minutes ticked down I hoped they could hold on for a famous victory.

Then the ref blew the final whistle and there was pandemonium! The kids rushed together to jump and hug and dance and cheer in celebration. Graeme, Neil the club president and I had our own hug and dance then I ran onto the field to embrace every one of our players. They had all played fantastically well, every one of them played their part and made a vital contribution to the team's success. I was overcome with emotion and pride. I looked for Sport Boy and saw him surrounded by kids from Margaret River who were hugging him and buffeting him in celebration: the kids from MR really love him and they were as happy for him in victory as if  they had won the cup themselves. 
The Redbacks players were understandably subdued, stunned really but they were gracious in defeat and after the three cheers I spoke to them and commiserated with them, we had lost the cup final the year before, but congratulated them on a fantastic season and their success in winning the league. Mark their coach is a really good bloke and he spoke glowingly about how we had played and that we had deserved to win.

Then it was over to the parents and supporters on the sideline to continue our celebrations.
I had very little time as I needed to leave for Perth and Aimee and Luke's wedding but I did have time to speak to the kids and our supporters and congratulate them on their superb performance and wonderful achievement. I hugged a few more kids and shed plenty of tears and thanked everyone for their efforts and their support.
As it was my last game as coach after 6 years with this group of kids and I wasn't able to stay for the trophy presentation or the club wind-up back at Busselton, Ben A the captain presented me with a lovely gift bag on behalf of the team and Neil gave me a framed award thanking me for my years of service to the club and the team. Graeme's family is moving to Perth at the end of the year and with our departure for Victoria it was Ben C and Sport Boy's last games for Cornerstone too so it was an absolutely perfect way to finish the season and our time at Cornerstone. I had plenty of hugs and handshakes and a few more tears before jumping in the car and heading for the wedding, leaving Sport Boy to enjoy their triumph in the company of his teammates and friends.

Later in the day, in between the wedding and the reception, Graeme set up a "link via sattelite" (holding his phone up to the microphone) so that I could speak to the audience at the club wind-up back in Busselton and acknowledge the kid's achievements once again before they received their trophies and medallions. There was a great party atmosphere happening by the sound of it.
Sport Boy has declared it was "the best day of his life" and has vowed to always remember the 18th of September.

I made it to the wedding with about three minutes to spare and despite having to change into my suit in the carpark was seated in the church in time for the arrival of the beautiful bride.


Stuart said...

Congrats on the big win, Marcus! It was sad watching the Cats though - maybe next decade, huh?

Peter said...

What a day!!!!!!