Day Five of the 2017 NSR Kanga Cup featured a carnival atmosphere, as nine fields swelled with the colour and fervour of Football grand finals. 32 matches took place at Southwell Park on a day that the sun shone, after rain threatened early, and the breeze held off as big crowds line the edges of the fields.
Mitchell Keenan roamed the fields at Southwell on Friday and caught two of the day’s best match ups.
Fun for all in the 2017 AWD cup
Six years on from the very first Athletes with Disabilities cup, organisers were incredibly honoured to host the tournament as part of the Kanga Cup and see it become such an integral part of the whole event.
This year the competition played host to two AWD teams from NSW, and two from the ACT, and the tournament has once more been a big hit for the players, the coaches, the parents and spectators over the last 5 days.
Football NSW 1 ended up eventual winners, going undefeated over five games with a grand-final win over Canberra’s Football Connect Blue, but results aside it seemed that each and every participant felt like a winner, with ear to ear smiles proving contagious on Southwell Park’s Field One over the past week.
Football Connect Coach Merryn Brown expressed her delight with this year’s instalment of the competition, and the way that her team has performed throughout the week.
“I’m a super proud coach right now for the way my team has performed all week, we come out here year in year out and this year has by far been the best for us performance-wise,” said Brown.
Seeing the level of fulfilment that the competition provides the players is heart-warming, and Brown states that it has to be seen to be believed.
“You can’t put it into words just how much it means to the players out there, you’ve really got to come out and watch them to see how much it means,” said Brown.
“They have such a good week, win or lose, and to have the other guys come down from NSW and to see how well they get along, it’s social, it’s playing and it’s just everything to them and they really do thoroughly enjoy it.”
The aim is to attract potential AWD competitors from other states in the coming years, and as the competition gets better with every year it shouldn’t be too long before we see teams coming from Queensland and Victoria to take part in the tournament.
Zebra’s take cup with heroic effort
While a strong display of young quality took place on Field 10 at Southwell Park on Friday with Korean sides Singok FC and Seoul going head-to-head for the U/12 male cup, it was the battle on Field nine that drew the attention of a large crowd.
An all-interstate grand final was a highlight of the day, with two undefeated sides in the Moreland Zebras from Melbourne and the QLD Lions from Brisbane facing off in an enthralling match, ultimately ending in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout with the Zebras taking home the cup.
The Moreland side put in a heroic effort, coming from behind to send the game into extra time and a final penalty save from Zebras goalkeeper Thomas Favero put the Victorian side in position for the win, and the final spot kick was converted to hand them the trophy.
“It felt amazing, it was the first time I have saved a penalty and I am really proud of my team,” said Favero.
The Zebras took out the U/13 cup in their first time competing, and Favero spoke of the experience as a whole.
“It’s our first time in Canberra and we’ve had a great time [in the tournament], we’re just a little town but we have a big heart and we showed that today.”
The game looked to be in Moreland’s hands, as the Victorian side dominated the early stages and claimed two quick goals after some silky attacking play.
The Lions narrowed their opponents lead with a late goal in the first half, and the Queenslanders made use of their own dominant spell, firing home two in the second half to take charge of the game.
As the final few minutes approached, the Lions looked set to take out the final, but the Zebras took matters into their own hands and scored a wonderful chip in the final stages to send the game into extra time.
In a nervy two halves of extra time, both sides were unwilling to push too far and give away the lead, and the Zebras came close to another late goal but they could only find the Lions post from a well-struck effort in the middle.
The final whistle blew and the daunting prospect of a penalty shootout came over the players as they lined up on the half way line. It seemed like no one would miss from the spot, but with the two sides locked at 4-4, up stepped Zebras goalkeeper Thomas Favero, who made the save and allowed his teammate to step up and seal the game, winning 5-4.