Squad list: Damien Delovski, Max Cunial, Sebastian Tomasiello, Zak Markosvki, Alessandro Calmasini, Adrian Ugrinovski, Roman Kalmanidis, Jack Dimovski, Lachlan Flood, Payton Skurtevski, Noah Crapis, Levi Martins, Nicholas Shalala, William Milinkovic, Yoan Ciugureanu, Miles Thompson
Can you be champions without winning? I would argue that this group of young men demonstrated all the characteristics of champions, but fell at the final hurdle losing the State CCC Final 2-1 to Holy Cross, Ryde.
In the long and winding path to the final these players showed time and time again that they had what it took to bring the trophy back to Wollongong. They proved they had the characteristics of champion teams.
Coping with the weight of expectations – this “golden generation” have been told on numerous occasions that they are one of the best groups of players to come through the college. They have shown this over the last few years winning nearly 100% of the games they have played.
Bouncing back – when a winning team loses it can be hard to recover. These players have lost the odd game, but demonstrated resilience in winning the next game, or the next game that matters.
Losing the “stars” – with Ben Caroutas and Liam Bonetig missing the second half of the season it gave other stars the chance to shine . . . and they did. Shining brightly.
Solidarity and mateship – a more united group of players you would not find in schoolboy soccer.
Determination and spirit – from the moment they stepped off the bus and turned the speaker on loudly, everyone present knew that this group of ERC players meant business.
Skill and creativity – as a team they were crowd pleasers, playing attractive football and demonstrating individual and team brilliance.
Did they win? No
Will they get another chance? Not this group.
But that’s both the tragedy and beauty of sport.
Could it have ended differently? Of course.
With ten seconds on the clock, goalkeeper Max Cunial stepped up for a corner to join the other twenty-one players in the Holy Cross penalty box. As the ball dropped to him, Max lined up the ball and hit the sweetest volley you will ever see. The ball headed goal-wards and dipped, dipped some more, but just not quite enough. With the goalkeeper beaten, one inch lower and the ball would have ripped into the roof of the net – a sensational equaliser and ERC would surely have won on penalties.
But life and sport doesn’t always work out how you want it to, no matter how much you want it or deserve it, so ERC went home without the trophy, but they are still champions in our eyes.