The round ball game was certainly the winner as old state rivalries were once again reignited when our NSW State Men and Women’s selected sides completed a successful trip up North as part of Queensland’s Festival of Football festivities on Saturday at Perry Park.
Both teams departed for Brisbane on match day with one objective, claiming both the Watson-O’Connor and Gibb-Masters trophies.
In the opening match, Jason Eagar’s heroic women’s squad, decimated by late withdrawals from players due to W-League and Young Matildas commitments, held their own with a number of exciting rising stars as well as seasoned National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s players on show.
Taking on a well drilled Queensland outfit, Eagar’s troops went close to capturing the title leading 2-1 after going down to an early first half goal, but a late equaliser at the death, signalled penalty shootouts where the hosts prevailed 5-4 on penalties.
It was Queensland who kicked off the goal scoring festivities in the 25th minute when Shea Connors put Alex Bundalo’s squad in the lead that lasted until early in the second half when the Blues struck their equaliser. Northern Tigers’ Hannah McNulty capitalised on a goalkeeper blunder in the 47th minute and it was game on.
Three minutes later and NSW hit the lead thanks to a well-timed run and finish from 17-year-old Football NSW Institute attacker Jordan Jasnos.
With Brisbane’s monsoonal weather turning it on as the rain continued to hit Perry Park, battles and chances were seen and forged as the game and fans looked for more goals.
In true Queensland grit, Bundalo’s side thwarted the Blues’ chances of winning the title in ninety minutes as Connors scored her second of the match in the 84th minute putting her body on the line sliding in to send the match into penalties.
As it is with spot-kicks, fate decides the winner and in this case, it was Queensland who held their nerve to etch out the victory and the Watson-O’Connor Cup.
At 15 years of age, young Football NSW Institute keeper Chloe Lincoln stood tall and is certainly one to watch out for in years to come as she expertly saved two from the spot, but it wasn’t enough as the Queenslanders celebrated after Cannon Clough sent the home fans into raptures.
Rachael Souttar, Hannah McNulty, Daisy Arrowsmith and Keiko Tanaka were all successful from the spot but unfortunate misses from Emily Minnett, Isabella Volkanovski and the final one from Claudia Cholakian ended NSW’s run for the Cup.
Disappointed of course, but the Girls were able to hold their heads up very high on an amazing job as each and everyone of them represented the state with pride.
Eagar heaped praise on the squad who really gave it their all in what was an amazing experience for each and everyone of them
“It was a very busy week that’s for sure.
“The girls were very professional in their approach and were wonderful representatives of NSW.
“They had to get to know new teammates, digest a lot of information, travel, and deal with unknown opposition in a hostile environment, without playing a competitive game for 2 months.
“I am so very proud of the players, they gave everything they had and more against a very strong and experienced Queensland team.
“Their determination was inspirational, the fight back in the second half was really special and showed how much they had come together as a group. To lose on penalties is hard to take, it hurts, and will take a while to get over.
“While the result wasn’t what we wanted, I was certainly honoured to represent NSW with such a great group of players.”
Emotions were the exact same when the men took centre stage next as the rain continued to pour but in almost identical circumstances as the women’s game, it was NSW who reigned supreme scoring an injury time equaliser then prevailing 4-2 on penalties.
Luke Wilkshire’s men suffered an early setback in the second minute when a mazy Jez Lofthouse run and quality finish rocked the Blues with Ben Cahn’s side taking the spoils early.
With a number of half chances falling to both sides, the Blues pegged a goal back and were on level terms thanks to a howler from Queensland number one Lachlan Hunter.
NSW’s experienced campaigner and NPL NSW stalwart Chris Price whipped in what appeared to be a harmless cross from the left-hand side that took a slight deflection which dumbfounded Hunter gifting the now former Wollongong Wolves star the opener.
Both coaches rang in the changes in the second half utilising the unlimited substitution rule but it was Queensland that took the lead once again in the 73rd minute via the spot.
Lofthouse was once again involved in the action as yet another quality run saw him cut down in the box by Rockdale Ilinden’s Banri Kanaizumi with the referee signalling a penalty.
Up stepped Queensland’s ‘Beast’ Harrison Sawyer who made no mistake putting the hosts in the lead.
A number of quality chances fell thick and fast to both sides with NSW keeper Nenad Vekic making a couple of crucial saves late in the piece keeping the Blues in the match.
Wilkshire’s decision to bring NSW’s very own ‘Beast’ Charles Lokolingoy with five minutes to go paid dividends as the former Sydney Olympic and now Marconi star striker expertly latched onto a quality Alec Urosevski cross in the 92nd minute to send the match into penalties.
Urosevski elected to be NSW’s first penalty taker and the baker made no mistake drilling it home – soon after the on-fire Vekic kicked off the spot-kicks in style saving Tom Strickland effort giving the Blues the early ascendancy.
Rockdale Ilinden’s Tomoki Wada calmy slotted his spot kick next before Steve Whyte gave Queensland their first during the shootout.
Stallions star Giorgio Speranza was up next but his resulting kick was saved by Hunter only just but Vekic came up trumps once more, expertly saving Queensland skipper Michael Thwaite’s kick.
NSW skipper Glen Trifiro then showed all his experience putting his in the back of the net before Sawyer saw his fly through the net for the second time on the night.
It was all up to Lokolingoy to give NSW the coveted Cup and that he did as he sent the Blues players and the fans that made the trip into raptures recording a famous victory for the proud state.
A delighted Luke Wilkshire was ecstatic with the Gibb-Masters Cup victory.
“It was a fantastic way to end the week with three sessions and obviously a hard-fought win as the boys had not played a competitive match for five to six weeks.
“What impressed me the most was the mentality and togetherness of the group.
“Coming together in such a short time frame is challenging but not only did we some very talented players on display, but a great group of men that represented themselves, their families and of course NSW proudly.
“It’s a memory that I know will live long in all their footballing careers.”
Football NSW would like to commend Football Queensland on their professionalism in accommodating this match, everything was well executed and run as we look forward to working with them, this time, in Sydney in 2021 for the second instalment of both matches.
You can relive both matches only on NPL.TV by clicking on the links below: