March 26, 2018
South Burnett United continued their unbroken point-scoring run in this year’s Toowoomba Football League when they played Willowburn Red in an away game at Toowoomba on Sunday.
The strong Willowburn side took an early advantage by scoring in the 15th minute, but United held its nerve and controlled the balance of play for the remainder of the first half.
In the second half, United launched a ferocious barrage of attacking raids on their opponents’ net soon after play got underway, and it was only fast footwork by Willowburn’s goal keeper that kept his side in the game.
All the same, the two sides remained deadlocked as play continued.
Then in the 80th minute, United’s Hayden Steene headed a perfectly delivered ball past the goal keeper into the back of Willowburn’s net to make the score 1-all.
Just five minutes later, though, Willowburn responded with a rocket of their own to regain the lead 2-1.
At this point, it looked like United would be facing their first defeat of the season.
But with barely two minutes to go until the final whistle, they mounted a final attacking raid.
Ethan Schultz made a run down the line, beat the defender and put in a perfectly weighted cross that allowed Hayden Steene to head the ball into the nets a second time and achieve a 2-all draw.
Sunday’s result has kept South Burnett United at the top of the table, where it is tied with Willow Burn Red on 10 points apiece, but is marginally ahead on For and Against to claim the top spot.
The draw followed United’s 9-1 thrashing of USQ in the season’s opener and the following week’s 4-0 victory over the Rockville Rovers, both played in Toowoomba.
This was followed by a third round 9-1 triumph over the Dalby Tigers in Kingaroy last week which drew one of the biggest spectator crowds seen in local football for many years.
United will now shift their focus to their next home game against Chinchilla, who currently sit at 5th place on the league table.
This match will be played at Tom Alford Oval in Kingaroy on April 7.
The most immediate effect of the region’s entry into the Darling Downs has been a 33 per cent reduction in the size of the local competition.
This year, instead of fielding 1st and 2nd division men’s sides and a women’s side, there is now just one division for each sex.
With United only playing a handful of home games this season, this reduction will reduce the local competition’s attraction for spectators, as well as takings at individual clubs’ canteens.
A second factor affecting the 2018 local competition is a fall in junior player numbers, which may be cyclical or a reflection of the cost difference between playing junior football and rugby league.
Junior football is the traditional pathway into senior football, and the reduction in junior sign-ups over the past few seasons is now flowing into the senior squads, causing pain for some.
In particular, the Nanango Panthers’ men’s side is desperately short of players this year.
On Saturday, just seven male Panthers took to the Burnett Street sports fields to play against nine Wests competitors, and they were trounced 10-2 for their troubles.
One would think that a town the size of Nanango could find 11 senior players – just four more than they already have – to make up a full squad and uphold the honour of a side that’s taken out the past five local premierships in a row.
So if you’re reading this and you qualify, get onto the Panthers’ Facebook page and message them for more details, or email them.
Fortunately for the Panthers, last year’s all-conquering Women’s Division seem to have all the players they need.
They took to the park before the men on Saturday, and walked away with a 5-nil win and all the points.
The Bears were so short of players the past two years that many had to double up on match days to field two men’s division teams.
This meant the Bears generally played a very solid 2nd Division game, followed by a much weaker 1st Division clash later in the day as exhausted players took to the park a second time.
This year’s format means the male Bears only have to play once on match days, and the extra freshness players will get will make the northerners much fiercer players in this season’s competition.
Meanwhile, the Bears’ women’s side has retained many of last season’s more experienced players and they will also be offering strong competition in their own Division.
On Saturday, the Bears went up against Gunners at Kingaroy’s Tom Alford Oval.
In the Women’s Division, the lady Bears accounted for the Gunnettes 2-0 in a see-sawing game where the Gunnettes missed several opportunities while their opponents capitalised on them.
But in the Men’s Division, the two teams were more evenly matched.
Gunners managed to hold off the Bears’ fierce assaults on their net and sank a rocket of their own to take the points by a narrow 1-nil margin.
That weekend, Panthers will play Gunners at Nanango while Barambah will play Wests at Wondai.
This four week break is unusual – most years the league only takes a fortnight off around Easter – and some people think a few trial games might be in order to keep fitness levels high.
In the absence of this, the only local football action over the coming month will be United’s match against Chinchilla at Tom Alford Oval in Kingaroy on Saturday, April 7.
Like the match against Dalby last week, this should be a very thrilling game to watch and one to put in your diary.