Sawtell breaks through
By BOB HARRIS
FOR the Sawtell Scorpions Men's reserve grade it was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for World football.
The Sawtell reserve grade had been trying since 1980, when what was then the North Coast Premier League competition started, to win the reserve grand final trophy.
In the dying minutes of a classic encounter with arch rivals Coffs Lions the Sawty lads finally managed to secure that elusive price of silverware but shock horror, the trophy has been changed to launch the start of the new Football epoch. As the 'Sawty' boys lifted the trophy on Saturday night the new mantle of 'North Coast Football League Champions' proudly shone from the silver plate.
From now on punters the chant is; 'Soccer is dead long live soccer', as we push headlong into the brave new era of world football both Nationally and on a local level.
As soccer dies and football is born we can look back at the past 25 years of North Coast Soccer and wonder where we are heading? For the purists it always has been football but for the local fraternity, particularly those of you from Victoria, the name change will surely cause some problems.
Locally clubs are about to vote on a new constitution and name change to 'North Coast Football'. Nationally we are now governed by the FFA (Football Federation of Australia) via FIFA (the Federation of International Football Associations). Note the absence of the 'S' word here folks.
To cap it all off we have joined the Asian Conference and in future we will battle it out against China, Japan, Korea, Iran and other developing Football nations in World Cup qualifiers. So while the Australian Football team were handing it out to the minnows from the Solomon Islands our local heroes were exhibiting their skills at the International Stadium.
The plight of the 'Socceroos' however was far from the minds of the Sawtell lads as they battled out a classic Grand Final against their old foe Coffs Harbour Lions. The International Stadium was packed to capacity, as the night air dampened to bring a slippery coverage to what is surely the best playing surface in Australia.
Flowing football with long searching passes saw the first half battle a close affair. Coffs had some good attacking play with midfield runs from evergreen Brett Adams however he was marked closely by Sawtell's David Gill. So closely that Adams must have thought Gill was trying to swap shirts before the game had finished.
Sawtell's midfield of Garth Leadbeater and Brock Stevens were superb and attaching runs from Michael Quinn and Ben Whittaker saw the young Sawtell team gradually take control.
For the Lions, they also had many heroes on the day. Mark Hain playing in what must be his last game showed plenty of spirit with solid tackling. Their defence was rock solid thanks to the tall timber of Col Smith and Andrew Mallet.
For Sawtell Cameron Swift lived up to his name by making some superb runs down the right flank and putting in some telling crosses only to find the Sawtell forwards unable to capitalise. Coffs Harbour's two African players, Prince and Thomas, were also tireless in their efforts and their enthusiasm was second to none. Another stand out player for the Lions was Will Bailey who showed he will be an automatic first grader next season.
Referee Phil Payne, who later became the darling of the Sawtell faithful, surprised many with an excellent game himself. Especially when he disallowed a Coffs Goal after the linesman had judged it offside. Given that he only had to show a couple of yellow cards, it was a well managed refereeing effort from a game played with passion and commitment from both teams.
A solitary goal in the last five minutes from Sawtell's Kale Hopper brought the Sawty Barmy Army to life and as the final minutes ticked away the 25-year wait was over. This was poetic justice for the two coaches of the reserve team as both Brett Harris and Mark Hayes had been involved with the club since its inception in 1980. Hayes was ecstatic after his teams win claiming that it was almost worth the wait.
The Lions coach, Sandro Rigoni, was less pleased with his team's efforts. While not wanting to take anything away from Sawtell Rigoni stated that his team had saved their worst for last. However the crowd seemed to agree this was a great curtain raiser to the main game and an exciting way to herald in the new era.