SELECT Futsal Premier League Men’s Premiers Dural Warriors will play Inner West Magic in this Saturday’s big dance following a comprehensive 6-0 Preliminary Final whitewash of Campbelltown Quake.
The March 3 showdown at Valentine Sports Park is the third meeting in four weeks between the competition’s top-two teams and promises to be a battle for the ages, while Campbelltown will look to next season to build on a promising premier league return.
Dural Warriors 6 (Jacob Basden, Samuel De Oliveira, Greg Giovenali 2, Tallon Zahra) Campbelltown Quake 0
Warriors rattle Quake
A 6-0 scoreline looked impressive but Dural Warriors had to display plenty of street-smarts to keep a hungry Campbelltown Quake at bay in a hardfought preliminary final at Blacktown Leisure Centre on Saturday night.
Three yellow cards to each team and a Mark Symington send-off (yellow cards for simulation and rough play) underlined the gritty passion on both sides, and five-time champions Dural were very clever in their execution, capitalising on a fortunate own goal to start proceedings then sitting deep to defend a 2-0 halftime lead. They’ll now enter a Herculean eighth-straight grand final versus Inner West.
It was a bright start from both sides when an innocuous Greg Giovenali corner kick rebounded off the Quake custodian into goal to gift Warriors a 1-0 lead, and when Dural’s second came from a shot that slipped through the keeper’s legs it was all the invitation they needed as they weathered a Campbelltown storm and hit on the counter as Quake went fifth-man – Giovenali finishing with a double to complement Jacob Basden, Samuel De Oliveira and Tallon Zahra goals.
Almost a decade ago ‘new-guys’ Dural had won just twice in eight encounters with foundation club Campbelltown, but a ninth straight victory has tipped the tables firmly in their favour. Tellingly it was Quake’s fourth premier league shutout (in 160 matches) – all against Warriors and three in their only finals meetings (6-0, plus 1-0 and 6-0 grand final losses).
The 6-0 results are joint-second highest finals winning margin. Dural also own the biggest, a 7-0 win over Boomerangs in early 2014, and claim four of a total five playoff cleansheets (Quake beat Magic 4-0 in the 2009/10 decider).
Coach Rob Varela praised his young side for delivering the goods in a complex match. “We only had three on the bench, and a lot of youth players – when everyone but two guys are 20 years and younger you have to be proud of the kids,” he said.
“Quake had more of the ball than we did and we defended a bit deeper than we usually do, but this was more from design as we didn’t have the personnel to attack like we usually do… but we were clinical up front; we hit two on the counter, one on their powerplay, and our keeper [Alistair Bruce] pulled off some great saves.”
Campbelltown club manager Carlos Martinez said the scoreline (Quake’s fourth-highest losing margin ever) didn’t reflect the game and rued a missed opportunity.
“The score doesn’t suggest it but it was probably one of our better efforts against Dural; possession was well and truly on our side and their keeper was very good,” he said.
“We really wanted to score first and to concede a ridiculous goal from a corner and then a second soft goal played right into their hands as they just sat back and countered… we had shot after shot and just couldn’t break them and the score only blew out in the fifth-man powerplay.
“We contested well, I but also have to say they were down troops and we just didn’t capitalise on the opportunity. No excuses though as we had all our senior players but let ourselves down with a couple of silly mistakes.”
Martinez is a straight-forward man, you’ll never see him look behind, and he immediately turned to face the next bright Purple-letter day.
“We are our biggest critics and maybe we do that a little too much and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We were only three points away from being premiers and you think, man, it could’ve been such a brilliant season, so yes we’re disappointed with the finish,” he said.
“Now we must focus on next season. We’re one or two steps behind Dural and Inner West – they’re the top-shelf.
“It’s not a matter of bringing in players – we have the squad, there’s youth players who will be senior men next year, and they’ve been Quake since under-9 – it’s just a matter of working on our weakness which has been defence; we need to be able to win a game 1-0 if we have to.”
“[Speaking about the club] But we are also more than one team, and straight after the pre-season trials my comment was I would gladly give up a semi-final spot in the men’s to remain in PL1. We finished fifth and next week have two teams in the grand final (14 Boys and Youth Men),” Martinez continued.
“We’ve proven we belong, we’re represented on the final day of competition, now it’s a matter of launching ourselves a little bit further. Now we’re aiming to win some things. Everyone’s really happy and pumped.”
This week’s Grand Final
SELECT Futsal Premier League championship decider (March 3) takes place at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday evening (6.30pm) when defending champions Inner West Magic tackle summer premiers Dural Warriors – their fourth grand final meeting in six years.
It says a lot about a club that has reached eight trophy matches in the 11 seasons NSW has conducted a premier league competition – this is the sixth time Dural enter as premiers. They’ve won it five times, consecutively – three of them cleansheets.
They’ve won big (6-0 v Quake, 6-3 v Rovers), they’ve won tight (1-0 v Quake, 3-2 v Magic, penalty shootout v Magic), and were right in the ones they lost (1-2 v Eagles, 2-4 v Magic). Warriors are the big-game kings, winning 81% of their finals games (13 of 16).
The numbers aren’t as impressive for Inner West (if you exclude Sydney Magic’s five playoff victories) who’ve won just 44% of finals as Magic / Allstars (8 of 18) and only one of their four grand final entries (last summer’s breakthrough).
And head-to-head, at least on paper, Dural hold a commanding 15 wins to Inner West’s six in 23 grueling encounters, although it’s predominantly been tight with 15 meetings decided by two or less goals. More relevant is Warriors have lost just once to Magic in six meetings at Valentine Sports Park (last year’s grand final).
But perhaps it’s current form that could tip the scales Magic’s way. Inner West have won three of the past four encounters, scoring five more goals than Dural in the time, and with all their big guns firing.
It will certainly be an interesting match up between Inner West veterans Chris Zeballos (12 finals goals) and Daniel Fogarty (9) versus the Giovenali brothers Greg (13) and Wade (8), who’ve scored a quarter of Dural’s 67 total playoff goals.
Campbelltown club manager Carlos Martinez suggested spectators would win no matter what the result. “I think it’s the two best teams in the comp, and two of the most astute coaches as well [Steve Knight and Rob Varela],” he said.
“They’ve both competed at different stages this season and this is going to be a cracking game. I think Inner West will win simply due to Dural being down a bit on personnel while some of the Magic players are in career-best form – they’re on fire at the moment.”
Dural coach Rob Varela is Australia’s most qualified coach when it comes to premier league grand finals. He’s seen it all with a domineering five-straight victories nestled between a maiden 1-2 defeat to fourth-placed Sydney City Eagles in 2010/11 (a year after gaining top-flight promotion) and last summer’s 2-4 loss to premiers Inner West.
His eighth-straight grand final is just another challenge, but he shoveled the pressure back on his adversaries.
“We’re not going to die wondering and we’re not without a chance, but they beat us quite well last time [to make it three of the last four meetings] and the fact it’s at Valentine Sports Park means they probably go into the match as favourites,” he said.
“We still want to prove ourselves. Yes we won the premiership, which is proof of consistency, but we still need to do all the things right this week – train hard, prepare to get the heads right, and be ready on the day to give ourselves the best chance possible.”
Inner West club manager Matteo Maiorana said this weekend’s atmosphere would be fever-pitch, but didn’t buy into any favouritism tag.
“It’s the dream final wouldn’t you say… Magic vs Dural in the Men’s and Women’s grand final will ensure a packed house and a great spectacle,” he said. “It’s been like that in two of the last three years.”
“I’m sure Rob will say we are favourites, but those mind games won’t work with us. They were premiers, yet we know we are good enough to beat Dural, so whether we go in as favourites or not doesn’t faze us in the slightest. We know if we play to our potential we will win. If we don’t, they will.”
“There isn’t much to separate both teams and I can’t wait for the next exciting chapter to be written between these great clubs.”
-By Dan De Nardi