The mercury went above 30 degrees on both days, but that didn’t stop more than 1000 footballers from across NSW and ACT giving it their all in the 2021 Bathurst Cup on Saturday and Sunday.
All up, 79 teams competed in the two-day annual pre-season tournament for under 13s-16s National Premier Leagues 2, Regional League, Regional Conference and Association boys, with four different clubs being crowned winners across the four respective age groups.
Football NSW development manager of regional football Andrew Fearnley said the Bathurst Cup was a great opportunity for clubs to finalise their pre-season preparations.
“In terms of pre-season, it’s a good opportunity for teams to play a number of games on the weekend, to try different formations, different players, gain some experience playing together and for coaches to work with their squads,” he said.
“It’s a competition that has grown to a considerable size and most teams use it for their pre-season preparations plus it’s also a good event to play good football in.”
Bathurst District Football entered teams in the under 13s, under 14s and under 15s competitions, however, none of the local hopefuls were able to progress from their groups.
There were some encouraging signs from NPL club Western NSW FC, who had teams in each four age groups, with their under 13s, under 14s and under 15s teams progressing to the play-off rounds but ultimately none of them could qualify for the grand final.
Hills United were comfortable winners in the under 13s grand final, defeating Albury-Wodonga FA 5-0, with a double from Braidin Derbyshire and Liam Yovich, as well as another from Tyrone Johns.
The under 14s decider between Manly Warringah FA and Hills United went to penalties, after Hills’ Franklin Pulickal cancelled out the opening goal from Manly’s Jack Johnstone. Manly’s Jett Kaines would step up to score the winning penalty, sparking wild celebrations from the boys in blue and red, which coach Miguel Irribarren couldn’t help being a part of.
He said his side had been practicing penalties sporadically in recent weeks.
“We’ve been practicing for the last few weeks. Just off the cuff. You never know when you’re going to need a penalty and the boys had two penalty shootouts on Sunday, so it was pretty intense,” he said.
“Credit to the boys, they did really well and it was just a big team performance.”
Even when Hills scored a goal late in extra-time, Irribarren said he was confident his side could bounce back after the set-back.
“We’ve come back from behind and I think the boys have shown signs of true champions the whole way through. The boys knew what they had to do,” he said.
The under 15s grand final also went to a penalty shootout, after a thrilling end to game between Blacktown Spartans and South Coast Flame. Spartans had opened the scoring through Thomas Stephenson late in the second half, before South Coast won a corner with seconds left. The South Coast coach ordered his team into the box – the goalkeeper even came up to halfway – and after Spartans failed to clear, Yoan Ciugureanu was able to kick home the equaliser with what was to be the final play of normal time. Neither team was able to break the deadlock in the one period of extra-time, meaning the match was headed to the dreaded penalty shootout. Spartans’ goalkeeper Samuel Jansons would make some crucial saves, with Harry Mount eventually scoring the winning penalty to give the Blacktown club a 3-1 win on penalties.
The same two clubs that played in the under 15s finale contested the under 16s decider, with South Coast scoring two first half goals via Jyden Harb and William Aston, with Jay De Gouveia adding another in the second half to give the club a comfortable 3-0 win.
GRAND FINAL RESULTS AND SCORERS:
- UNDER 13s: Hills United 5 (Braidin Derbyshire 2, Liam Yovich 2, Tyrone Johns) defeated Albury-Wodonga FA 0
- UNDER 14s: Manly Warringah FA 1 (Jack Johnstone) defeated Hills United 1 (Franklin Pulickal) on penalties 4-3
- UNDER 15s: Blacktown Spartans 1 (Thomas Stephenson) defeated South Coast Flame 1 (Yoan Ciugureanu) on penalties 3-1
- UNDER 16s: South Coast Flame 3 (Jyden Harb, William Aston, Jay De Gouveia) defeated Blacktown Spartans