CULBURRA coach Tony Gauci has described his team’s win over Manyana on Saturday as the gutsiest effort he has seen in his 33 years with the club.
While they a number of players unavailable for various reasons, the Cougars fielded an under strength team, but still managed to hold out for a 2-1 win.
Most of the excitement was reserved for the second half with neither side able to gain the upper hand in the first 45 minutes.
Culburra’s strike weapon Corey Ryan had actually not intended to play and had even travelled without his gear, but still managed to score both of his side’s goals.
The first came after about 65 minutes, but Manyana did not give them much time to let their lead sink in, leveling it up just a few minutes later.
Ryan’s second goal but Culburra back in front with 18 minutes to go, setting up an exciting finish as Manyana looked for an equaliser.
Despite a number of opportunities, including a goal which was disallowed, the Wanderers were unable to fight back and take any points, with the game finishing 2-1.
With the high number of unavailable players, Culburra coach Tony Gauci said he’d have been happy just to get a point, but was absolutely stoked to take all three.
“I think it’s the first time as a coach where I haven’t had 11 fresh players available for first grade, Gauci said.
“We only went down there with 21 players for both grades, so we had to bring in a lot of guys from reserves.
“They [Manyana] were always looking dangerous and were pretty pumped when they scored their goal, so I was very happy to get all three points.
“I might have underestimated them a bit, but I’ll tell you what, everyone held their own, it was a tremendous effort.”
Gauci was particularly full of praise for Keith Merivale, who played a full game in reserves, before backing up to play three-quarters of the game in firsts.
“I’d say he was instrumental, he had an outstanding game,” Gauci said.
“It was a real iron man effort, he always wears his heart on his sleeve and he never gives up,” he added.
Other honourable mentions went to Lewis and Josh Bonney, Aaron Mason and Andy Summerville, who made a comeback after spending years out of the game.
Gauci said he expects a few players might be looking over their shoulders at training now after the efforts of the guys who filled in, which is a good indication of their depth.
With seven rounds remaining, Gauci said he is very happy with the position they are in, but expects some tough games ahead, five of which they will be playing away.
Culburra will take on the bottom of the table St Georges Basin next week, while Manyana will be out to bounce back against Shoalhaven Heads.
Manyana coach Matt Tooley could not be reached for comment.