June 6, 2018
by Dafyd Martindale
The local football competition played its eighth round last weekend, and after a flat start to the South Burnett soccer season it’s suddenly become a lot more interesting.
While there have been no significant changes to the ladder as it stood going into the mid-season President’s Cup three weeks ago, local teams are now starting to find form.
Players on all sides are visibly working harder on the park, and clearly paying heed to advice of coaches who’ve now had a chance to scrutinise their opponents for weaknesses.
The happy end result – for players and spectators – is that each weekend’s games have become noticeably better than the season’s openers.
Wins for the top sides in each division are no longer a foregone conclusion, either.
The President’s Cup is played between the to top two sides in each division after the end of Round 6, and this year Wests played Gunners in the Men’s Division, while Nanango and Barambah faced off in the Women’s.
The four teams met at Tom Alford Oval in Kingaroy on May 19 in front of a good crowd of spectators.
In the Women’s Division match, Nanango’s Panthers went on to the park as favourites and emerged the ultimate winners, taking home the Cup for the fifth year in a row with a 4-nil win over the lady Bears.
Barambah were at a disadvantage, being forced to put one of their key players in the goals while the team searches for a replacement keeper.
But they put up a good fight and remain the team to watch this season as they try to wrest the Grand Final crown from the well-seasoned Panthers side.
In the Men’s Division match, bunkmates Wests and Gunners went on to the park as equal leaders in this year’s competition, so the match could really have been anyone’s.
For a brief period it looked like it might be Gunners when they scored their only goal in the first half, forcing Wests to fight right to the very end.
By the end of the match, however, Wests had found the back of the net four times while Gunners – despite a furious effort – were unable to improve on their early score.
This is the 15th year of the President’s Cup competition, and this enjoyable mid-season tournament is now a popular fixture of the local competition.
Long may it continue.
The seventh round of the competition on Saturday, May 26, saw a minor upset when the Men’s Division match between Wests and Gunners had to be rescheduled.
As a result, spectators who turned out to Tom Alford Oval only got to see one match that day – the Women’s Division clash.
But it turned out to be a much more closely run affair than many might have expected.
Wests went into the match as favourites with a four-point lead over the Gunnettes on the ladder.
But the Gunnettes showed they weren’t overawed by the red and blacks.
They gave as good as they got in a see-sawing game that saw the ball rapidly shunted from one end of the field to the other, then back again.
While Wests ultimately prevailed, it was by the narrowest of margins: 1-0.
Wests would have been happy to pick up 3 points for the win, but Gunners would have been equally elated to have held their opponents on tenterhooks right to very end.
In Wondai, Barambah faced off against Nanango.
In the Women’s Division, the lady Panthers dished out a thumping to the lady Bears, taking the match 6-1 with the Panthers’ trademark attacking style.
Since both teams had faced off in the President’s cup just a week before, it was unclear whether Nanango had tightened up their game or the lady Bears had loosened theirs.
But Barambah refused to let their heads drop and they played hard – and at times, absolutely merciless – football from start to finish in a match that was a pleasure to watch.
In the Men’s Division, Barambah’s fortunes were reversed when they scored 9-nil win against the Panthers, who have been battling a player shortage all season.
Barambah showed they will be serious contenders for a berth in the Grand Final; and the Panthers, commendable courage in the face of adversity.
Last Saturday, Nanango faced off against Wests at Nanango, and the Gunnettes played Barambah in Kingaroy.
In the Women’s Division match at the Burnett Street sports fields, Wests showed the benefit of having eight weeks of competitive matches under their belt.
The plucky red and blacks mounted a defensive line the lady Panthers had more than a little difficulty breaking through, and mounted many assaults on the Panthers’ goal mouth that pressed Nanango’s keeper into service.
It appeared the Panthers might have taken their dominance of the Division’s ladder for granted, but if they did, Wests’ women showed them this was a dangerous assumption.
In the end, Panthers took the game – and the points – by a slim 2-1 margin.
In the Men’s Division, Nanango took to the field with nine players against a full complement of Wests players plus a reserve.
In the past few weeks, Football South Burnett president Troy Schultz – a dyed-in-the-wool Wests man – has donned Panthers’ colours and joined the team to help make up the player shortage that has dogged them all season.
And one way or another, this appears to have helped with the Panthers looking much meaner and leaner than last season.
From the game’s outset, the Panthers were on the attack with a force that appeared to catch Wests by surprise.
While Wests had the advantage of superior numbers, the Panthers displayed a measure of strategy and discipline that saw them hammer the Wests goal repeatedly in the first half.
It took Wests until the latter part of the first half to gain the Panthers’ measure, after which the black and reds applied themselves to steadily rack up the 5-nil victory that secured Round 8’s points for them.
But the turnaround in the Panthers’ form was a pleasure to watch, and both the team and its hard-working coach merit congratulations for refusing to let adversity get them down.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Division match between the Gunnettes and Barambah in Kingaroy – where the Gunnettes fielded a full side against Barambah’s nine players – spectators saw proof that numerical inferiority is not necessarily a drawback.
Both sides played a hard game and the Gunnettes found the back of their opponents’ nets twice, but Barambah ultimately triumphed by a 5-2 margin.
Considering that Barambah have a squad comprising some very seasoned and talented players, the plucky Gunnettes should be proud of the result even if it didn’t yield them any points.
The squad showed real improvement over their efforts earlier this season, and fans can expect them to continue to improve before the Grand Finals.
Barambah were understandably pleased to put more points on the ladder, but their real aim is to play the Panthers in this year’s Grand Final.
In the Men’s Division game that followed, good fortune continued to smile on the Iron Men Of The North, but much more narrowly, with the Bears just squeaking over the line 2-1 against the skilful Gunners side.
Sadly for the purple and golds, Gunners missed a number of opportunities during the match, while Barambah attempted to capitalise on any opportunity that opened up.
The win has advanced the Bears up the ladder, but the side will need a few more wins in order to challenge Wests and Gunners at the top of the table.
This Saturday (June 9) all matches will be played at Kingaroy’s Tom Alford Oval following the rescheduling of a planned Women’s Division clash between Nanango and the Gunnettes.
The day will kick off at 2:45pm when Nanango face off against Gunners in the Men’s Division, where Gunners will go on to the park as favourites.
This will be followed by a match between Barambah and Wests in the Women’s Division at 4:20pm – which could be anyone’s – and then Barambah and Wests in a Men’s Division match under lights at 6:00pm, where Wests will be highly fancied but the Bears could surprise.
As usual, a canteen and barbecue will be operating, and spectators are very welcome to come and cheer their teams on.
In The Toowoomba Football League, South Burnett United have continued their winning ways over the past few weeks.
The team, who’ve so far played nine games in the Men’s Championship, currently sit at second place on the ladder underneath Willowburn White and ahead of Willowburn Red, both of whom have played 10 games.
This weekend, all teams are having a break.
On Sunday, June 17, United will take on the sixth-placed Gatton Redbacks at Dixon Oval in Gatton, a match United will be favourites to win.
And the following Sunday, United will square off against the Rockville Rovers at the Captain Cook Reserve in Toowoomba.
But South Burnett fans will need to cool their heels for a few more weeks until Saturday, June 30, when United will play the first of a series of three home games at the Kingaroy soccer fields that will see them play Rockville Rovers; then Willowburn White (July 7); and then Willowburn Red (July 14).
All three promise to be particularly exciting matches, so put them in your diary if you haven’t already done so.