YOOGALI Football Club is the 2014 Billabong Cup champion having downed Hanwood Football Club in the grand final at Hanwood Oval yesterday 1-0.
Coach Rocky Marando was elated with the victory, describing yesterday as “easily one of the best days of my life”.
Fijian import Mulla Tina dived forward to head home the only goal of the match in the 15th minute to seal Hanwood’s fate.
One of the competition’s best players, Hanwood forward Kyle Greaves, was noticeably absent from the tense encounter a telling factor that earned his marker Sam Kagtooa man-of-the-match honours.
Throughout the season Hanwood FC has relied on its enviable pace and foot skill against the imposing physicality of Yoogali FC.
But Hanwood’s star forwards Joey Schirripa and Matthew Fearon, along with midfield duo Michael Bresolin and Dem Torino, were shut down by forceful and intense defence.
“Strength and physicality, particularly in the air, is clearly a strength of ours,” Marando said.
“In the past we’ve been a short team but with the Fijian influence we have that extra height and physicality to get us over the line.“We went one goal up and after that we had chance after chance.
“We just couldn’t bury them, but I told the boys to keep digging and heart got us over the line.”
Lone scorer Mulla Tina had two other red-hot chances to extend the lead, as did Ura Loki and Pasquali Madafarri, all with crisp shots on goal that sailed high or wide.
Referee Diego Menegazzo sent Marando from the field for verbal abuse with five minutes remaining at a time when Hanwood had two free kicks and a corner to score a late equaliser.
In the post-match celebrations, Marando thought nothing of it, explaining he had felt hard done by but that there had been nothing sinister in his behaviour.
“We get along with the refs good. We’re all good mates,” he said.
“I thought a lot went against us today, like it tends to, but I won’t say too much more than that because we got the result and it’s all good.”
Marando only took the reins from Pat Ciampa half-way through the season, but he said the jubilation of the squad and their fans after the final whistle gave him goosebumps.
“This is just sensational. It’s been too long between drinks for this club,” he said.
“Look at the passion of the boys celebrating. Money can’t buy this.
“This is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
YFC’s Josh Bagiante was helped from the field in the final minutes of the match with a serious knee injury, giving rise to Marando’s on-stage joke the $5000 cash prize would be invested in physiotherapy.
From Area News