June 11, 2018
by Dafyd Martindale
South Burnett United fans had every reason to cheer on Sunday when the local team scored a narrow but convincing win over their nearest rivals to secure this year’s President’s Cup in the Toowoomba Football League competition.
The annual mid-season competition was played at Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba, and kicked off at 9:00am with a match between Willowburn and Rockville in the senior Women’s competition.
This was followed with a Men’s Conference match between Garden City and Oakey two hours later, and then the 2018 Men’s Championship at 1:00pm where United faced off against current ladder leaders Willowburn White.
In a tough match between the two leading teams in this year’s TFL, United showed there was still plenty of fire in the engine-room by taking out the match 2-1.
After the game was over, the Premier Men’s match between USQFC and Willowburn at 3:00pm seemed almost an anti-climax for local fans.
While United gained glory – but no competition points – for their President’s Cup win, the victory is a great psychological boost for the squad which has been carving up the Toowoomba competition ever since the South Burnett joined it this year.
This Sunday (June 17), United will play the Gatton Redbacks at Dixon Oval in Gatton, followed a week later by a clash with the Rockville Rovers at the Captain Cook Reserve at Wilsonton.
But locals who would prefer to see United in action closer to home will be able to take it all in on the following three Saturdays (June 30, July 7 and July 14) when the team play on their home turf at Tom Alford Oval in Kingaroy.
United will take on the Rockville Rovers on June 30, then have a rematch against Willowburn White (July 7), followed by a clash with Willowburn Red (July 14).
These home games promise to be derby days for football fans, who’ll also be able to watch local squads in action near the sharp end of the 2018 competition.
On Saturday, local football fans were treated to three games rather than four after a Women’s Division match between Nanango’s Panthers and the Gunnettes was rescheduled to next month.
To compensate, the day’s remaining three games were all played at Tom Alford Oval to spare the teams, officials and spectators from commuting to two different parks.
The derby kicked off with a Men’s Division match between Panthers and Gunners in the early afternoon that turned into a bloodbath for the luckless Nanango side, who were able to field 10 players against Gunners’ 11 (plus three reserves).
This was a slight improvement on Nanango’s numbers last weekend when they took to the field with just nine players, but the extra manpower didn’t give them any advantage.
Instead, Gunners helped their opponents rack up a point in the first half by scoring an own goal, much to the amusement of some spectators who suggested the players responsible should have “gone to Specsavers”.
Beyond this single fumble, Gunners displayed their true form by deflecting the Panthers’ fiercest attacks and cutting through their defences like a hot knife through butter.
By half time, the score stood at 5-1 with Gunners responsible for all the goals; and by full time, the purples had added a further half dozen to bring the end result to 11-1.
The result was understandably dispiriting for the Panthers who have had the toughest season of all the teams so far this season.
But to their credit, Nanango never let their heads drop and played hard until the final whistle.
In the Women’s Division match that followed, the lady Bears came up against Wests in a clash that Barambah were marginally favoured to win.
Barambah has been suffering some of the problems with numbers that have dogged the Panthers this season, and they took to the park with nine players against Wests’ 11 (plus two reserves).
Last weekend a similar numbers deficit had been no hindrance to the lady Bears scoring a 5-2 victory over the plucky Gunnettes, but on Saturday Wests showed they were no easybeats.
While Barambah threw themselves at the red and blacks from the outset, new tactics introduced by Wests coach Jordane Saunders a few weeks ago proved their worth.
Wests were able to effectively block most of the lady Bears’ assaults in a tight match that kept players and spectators on a knife’s edge right to the very end.
By the end of the first half, Barambah seemed to have the game in the bag, with Wests unable to find the back of the lady Bears’ net.
But Wests’ fortunes turned in the second half.
And when the reds were able to equalise the score at 2-all just 30 seconds before the final whistle, the Bears’ hopes of securing three match points from their day’s efforts evaporated.
The draw elated Wests, who will be looking to continue their improvement in the weeks ahead.
While it was no doubt a bitter disappointment for the lady Bears to see outright victory taken from their grasp at the very last instant, their ambition to play the Panthers in this year’s Grand Final still seems secure.
In the day’s final game, Wests played Barambah under lights in a Men’s Division clash that proved as punishing as the weather was cold.
This year, the reduction of the local competition from three divisions to two should have worked in the Bears’ favour.
In 2017, many of the team had to play in both second and first division matches because of player shortages.
This often led to brilliant games early in the day – Barambah have many talented players – followed by dismal ones later when the exhausted Bears players had double up.
This year, the northern side only has to play a single match the same as their opponents, and the extra freshness should have allowed Barambah’s men to shine.
But this hasn’t proven to be the case so far this season, with Wests and Gunners maintaining an iron grip on the top of the table and the Bears a long way behind in third place.
This being so, Wests went on to the park on Saturday as favourites to win and didn’t disappoint.
Despite a feverish effort by the Bears, Wests held their discipline and dispatched the northern side 3-1 with almost clinical precision.
At this point in the season – and football being football – the Bears could still turn things around.
They’ve done it in past years and could do it again.
But right at the moment, a Men’s Division Grand Final between Gunners and Wests seems a more likely outcome.
Barring any last minute match rescheduling, this weekend’s games will be played at the Burnett Street sports fields in Nanango and Tom Alford Oval in Kingaroy.
In Nanango, the Panthers will play Barambah in the Women’s Division at 1:00pm, followed by a Men’s Division match at 3:00pm.
And in Kingaroy, home teams Wests and Gunners will battle it out for supremacy, with Wests and the Gunnettes hitting the park at 4:00pm, followed by the Men ‘s Division sides under lights at 6:00pm.
A canteen will be operating at both venues, and spectators are very welcome.