10 OF THE BEST | Border soccer in 2014

Twin City dominated the league from start to finish but couldn’t quite get the league-cup double while the Border finally said hello to its own NPL club.

IT was a high-class season where Twin City was never really threatened and, bar some desperate keeping from Wodonga Diamonds’ Ben Russell, could well have had the league-cup double. It also marked the emergence of another potential Matilda in Joey Cartwright and the birth, at last, of the Border’s own NPL club.

1. BACK TO BACK

Defending Cup champion Wodonga Diamonds looked anything but a title hope after a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Boomers in May. But a mix of tactics and determination put them into the grand final against runaway league winners Twin City, Diamonds took a 1-0 lead early, but the second half was a siege with the Wanderers pounding away at the goal to eventually find an equaliser. It went to extra time and then penalties, with keeper Ben Russell, pictured, the hero with two diving saves.

2. UNITED WE STAND

THE dream became a reality with the granting of a licence for the Border’s first National Premier League club. Murray United will field teams from under 12s to seniors from next year. Already many of the established names in the AWFA senior competition have signed up for the new club. It will be a test of the Border’s depth, but the ramifications for the domestic competition will undoubtedly be player numbers.

3. WANDERERS

THEY were touted as the team to beat from early January and didn’t disappoint. Wanderers finished 10 points clear of their nearest rival, lost just one game and averaged close to five goals a game and less than one against. They pushed the competition to a new level with the quality of passing and speed. Englishmen James Coutts (pictured) and Matt Gray were outstanding but they had plenty of support from the homegrown talent.

4. ALBURY ON A HIGH

THE flow-on from the development of the women’s game on the Border is best measured by Albury High School. The secondary students continue to deliver results in state and all-comer competitions. This year their under-15 girls team made it to the semi-final of the Bill Turner Cup, only to be knocked out by a sports academy school. Coach Guy Fahey has made no secret of the fact the school benefits from most of the squad playing senior soccer in the AWFA competition.

5. GOAL FREAK

MUCH was made of the return of prolific goalscorer Zac Walker, centre, after falling off the Melbourne Heart’s junior squad radar. Walker didn’t disappoint with a 42-goal year earning him his third golden boot award. Walker’s pace and strength was a key to his goalscoring, but the fact is he rarely fails to convert from any reasonable opportunity. Twin City English import James Coutts said Walker should be playing A-League.

6. MATILDA JOEY

JOEY Cartwright has been a star on the rise for sometime at Glen Park. But it was at the AIS in Canberra where the deal was sealed. At just 14, she was picked in an Australian under-16 girls squad that played in Asia. The group is seen as “generation next” with a view to the under-17 World Cup. Cartwright franked her credentials with two goals in the mini-Matildas’ 10-0 win against Hong Kong in Malaysia.

7. NO ROAR

AWFA emphatically ruled out any return to the competition of a newly-formed team from Cobram. The Roar were looking to join AWFA, having all but cut ties with the Shepparton league. Needing two-thirds of the vote at the AGM they failed to get even a third of delegates on their side. The downsides were a 13-team competition and travel, the positives a club playing in every grade as opposed to others that field five or six teams.

8. HE’S BACK

IT was possibly the worst-kept secret in the A-League. Having missed out on a start in the World Cup the bush telegraph had the soon-to-be-out-of-contract Josh Kennedy at Melbourne City way back in July. The former Twin City and Boomer junior made the deal official at the start of last month and the lanky striker will join the club after his contract with Japanese club Nagoya Grampus expires at the start of the new year.

9. RING THE CHANGES

COACHES fell by the wayside with alarming regularity during the winter and after the season was done and dusted. The incredible shake-up started mid-season with Craig Cartwright, pictured, at Wangaratta the first to go and three caretakers in charge by the finals. In the end, no senior coach who started 2014 will be at their club at the start of 2015.

10. CITY POWERHOUSE

MID-season a rival coach had written Albury City off as not among the top four and not worthy of finals consideration. But the writing was on the wall well before the cup grand final started. The defending champions were on a roll and fate was on their side when a timekeeping blunder led to a drop ball re-start and the winner in extra time in the semi-final. Zoe Jackson, pictured, capped off a stellar back end of the season with a double against Boomers in the final.

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10 OF THE BEST | Border soccer in 2014
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