SHOALHAVEN Heads Berry has made it back-to-back Shoalhaven Football first grade premierships with a thrilling 1-nil win over Culburra in Saturday’s grand final.
Playing in less than ideal greasy conditions after the rain at the South Nowra Football Complex the Sharks completed a great season, taking out both the first and reserve grade premierships with the later winning 1-nil over Shoalhaven United.
The Bears had earlier tasted success with a commanding 4-nil win over Bomaderry in third grade.
Interestingly, not one of the competition champions in any of the men’s seniors grades in 2010 were able to complete the double – Milton (Over 35s reserve grade), Shoalhaven United (Overs 35s first grade), Bomaderry (third grade) and Shoalhaven United (reserve grade) all lost the season deciders while Wreck Bay (first grade) failed to make the grand final.
A big crowd was in hand for the season deciders with the now famous World Cup Vuvuzelas and even the occasional flares adding to the atmosphere.
Shoalhaven Senior Football
First grade grand final
Shoalhaven Heads Berry 1
THE first grade grand final lived up to the hype with a thrilling, tough encounter.
Although there were dramas for both sides before a ball had even been kicked off – Heads lost star keeper Matt White, who broke his thumb at training on Tuesday, while the Cougars were without star defender Daniel Wells who injured his leg in last week’s finals victory over Wreck Bay.
White was replaced by Steve Ellington in goals, while Aaron Mason moved to the back for the Cougars.
The wet weather on Friday and Saturday leading into the match and two lower grade games left the Ison Park pitch boggy ahead of the season decider, which brought for a change of tactics from both sides.
Although the clash wasn’t as spectacular as it probably would have been with a dry pitch, it was still a tough, hard-fought encounter as you would expected a grand final decider to be, with both sides creating plenty of chances that kept the big crowd on its toes.
Both sides created plenty of chances but it was a second half strike from Ian Martyn in the 67th minute that would ultimately be the difference.
The match started in exciting fashion with Culburra on the attack.
A Cougars’ free kick from Cory Ryan in the third minute rebounded off the wall and he had a second attempt on goal, which was cleared by Heads captain Brad Page from the goal-line.
The Heads had their first attack on goal in the 11th minute when a great Alex Keel ball found that man, Jack Miller up front and his first up shot hit the post, rebounding to Lindsey Higgins, who cleared the ball.
And this would be the trend for most of the match as both sides attacked, with often last-ditch, desperate defence clearing the ball.
From the ensuing corner Page got up above the pack to head towards goal but was deflected back to Keel whose shot, which deflected off Page, was saved by Tom Matthews.
Minutes later Dan Allen made a great run down the left for Heads but Luke Pickering was up to the challenge in defence for the Cougars, negating the raid.
Despite the slippery conditions, the attacking raids continued and in the 20th minute a good run from Mitch Blundell down the right beat two defenders before off-loading to Matt Lewis, whose shot was wide to the left.
This was followed by a Blundell free kick that went over the bar and as the Cougars seemed to be getting on top their best chance came in the 21st minute when another free kick ricocheted like a pinball off numerous players to the screams of “clear it” by the Heads’ fans, with no less than three or four shots on goal saved before the ball was ultimately cleared.
At the other end 16-year-old Tom Matthews was also called upon to make a good save from a powerful Ian Martyn drive, which he tipped over the bar.
Culburra coach Tony Gauci continued his finals’ plan of rotating his strikers up front, introducing Dale Blundell into the game in the 25th minute, but it was the Sharks who had the next serious chance on goal, with Keel putting a 35- metre free kick over the bar.
Mitch Blundell and Jack Miller, who was being kept quiet by Lindsey Higgins who was doing a superb job at the back for the Cougars on the Heads’ star striker, then traded shots as the game continued to go from end to end and the sides went into half-time locked nil-all.
The second half continued in the same vein, with both sides attacking despite the slippery conditions. The Cougars had the first attempt on goal when Mitch Blundell’s shot hit the right post in the opening minutes, setting the scene for what spectators were treated to for the remainder of the match as the arm wrestle continued.
The Cougars had their best chance of the game in the 10th minute with a good run from Adam Douglass down the right who fired in a pinpoint cross to an unmarked Dale Blundell in the box, who put his header over the bar.
Gauci continued his rotation policy, reintroducing Corey Ryan into the action in the 62nd minute and it almost lead to an instant result when the striker made a great run down the right and fired in a cross that went across the face of goal but no one was there to capitalise.
The eventual Heads’ winner came in the 67th minute when Ben Rawlinson took the ball down the right side and fired in a superb cross that looked to be missing everyone but Martyn emerged from nowhere to slot the goal
past a diving Mathews to the rapturous cheers from the Heads’ supporters.
The Cougars lifted and responded virtually from the restart with a Douglass shot just going over the bar.
Martyn almost added a second goal minutes later with his shot just going wide, but at the other end Douglass combined with Ryan to also go close, as did Blundell and another Ryan shot on goal as the Cougars tried everything to level the scores, but it wasn’t to be as the Sharks held on to claim back-to-back first grade titles.
Sharks captain Brad Page accepted the Blackmore Bolden Shield from the two men after whom the shield is named, Tom Blackmore and Len Bolden, in fact the first time the two have both been present at the same time at a grand final to make the presentation.
In a double celebration for Page ,he was also awarded the Len Bolden Medal as the man of the match.
Shoalhaven Heads Berry 1 (Ian Martyn) d Culburra nil.
• Full pictorial coverage of the grand final will appear in next Friday’s South Coast Register
Grand final scores
SHOALHAVEN Senior Football grand final results
First grade – Shoalhaven Heads Berry 1 (Ian Martyn) d Culburra nil.
Second grade – Shoalhaven Heads Berry 1 (Matt Kirk) d Shoalhaven United nil.
Third grade – Shoalhaven United 4 (Trent Boundy, Mark Smith Matt Garratty, own goal) d Bomaderry nil.
First grade – Bomaderry 1 (John Studdert) d Shoalhaven United nil.
Reserve grade – Shoalhaven Heads Berry 2 (Wade Wardle, Stu Higgins) d Milton nil.