Maitland FC 0 def. by Edgeworth Eagles 2 (Fabrizio 81’, 88’)
Sunday 15 September, 3:15pm, Magic Park
In what was one of the more gruelling and battling Grand Finals in recent history, Edgeworth’s Daniel Fabrizio struck twice late in the game to defeat Maitland and attain a much-desired championship having lost at the same stage in the last two consecutive years.
The big match opened at a frantic pace and it was the Magpies who looked the more threatening with Joel Wood looking to get in behind the Eagles’ defence and almost firing off some on-goal shots.
Nick Cowburn also came within a whisker of taking an early lead for his team as his free-kick cannoned into the crossbar.
Edgeworth began to work themselves back into the contest midway through the first half and Keanu Moore played a pivotal role with his speed and quick touches around the edge of his opposition’s penalty area and he almost pulled off a goal had it not been for a great, low save from Maitland keeper Matt Trott.
Trott was again called upon on numerous occasions stopping a menacing shot from Tyson Jackson and another from Fabrizio.
Although the scores remained locked nil-nil for much of the game, there were still multiple chances for both teams to break the deadlock.
James Thompson found himself in space behind the Edgeworth defence and with a chance to play Wood in to a goal-scoring position, but the defensive brilliance of Josh Evans snuffed out the danger.
Not long later, veteran head Matt Thompson had a rocketing shot from just inside the box blocked, and then down the other end, an incredible chance for the Eagles went begging as a Fabrizio volley from extremely close range was somehow kept out by the tremendous skill of Trott.
He wasn’t the only goalkeeper showing his mettle though as the Edgeworth keeper Josh Low also pulled off a stunning, fingertip save to deny a beautifully-struck shot from Ryan Clarke.
As the clock ticked over in the final ten minutes, the first and crucial goal of the game was finally found as Fabrizio bundled in a goal from unmissable range after Moore nodded the ball into his path from a cross.
Desperately chasing the lead, the Magpies pushed high and forward leaving space for Edgeworth’s attackers to manoeuvre and Fabrizio wouldn’t be asked twice, dribbling the ball forward and launching a bullet into the bottom corner of the goal to seal a hard-fought victory in the dying minutes of the biggest game of the year.
Pure elation followed in the official presentation after what was a gusty and exhaustive performance from the Eagles. Their captain Evans, was awarded the Dave Williams – Player of the Grand Final Medal, while Daniel McBreen ended his illustrious career with another title to his name.
Coach of the side, Damian Zane, said he felt the Grand Final win was a just reward for what had been another inspiring season.
“It means a lot, especially after not winning the premiership,” Zane said.
“I think it would have been tough on us to win nothing. We were in the premiership race for a long time…I think we deserve something out of the year. This is for the boys.
“We’ve had a few things go wrong this season, but the boys have just been resilient. That’s the best way to describe them.
“Guys have just stepped in and done jobs. They’ve been enormous all year and they got their reward today.”
Zane admitted that although at times he was a little worried throughout the game, that he pleased with how his Eagles managed the game, particularly the efforts of his goal-scoring hero, Fabrizio.
“I felt confident as the game went on,” he said.
“I thought we had what it took, but football is a bit like that – you never know – one counter attack and in a game you feel like you’re winning, you’re down.”
“I thought he [Fabrizio] was great for us today up front. He gave us heaps going forward and was just continuously dangerous.
“We still haven’t seen the best of him, but that’s just a sign of what he can do.”
The victory now stands as Edgeworth’s sixth Grand Final crown and their fifth year in a row that they’ve picked up silverware.
While Maitland will be heart-broken following their dramatic loss, the team should still take pride and deserve praise after what’s been a memorable and historic year for the club, however, it’s still not over yet.
The Magpies will continue their season next week when they compete in the NPL Finals along with the other Premiers of the country’s top-tier leagues. They host Tasmania’s Devonport Strikers this Saturday at Cooks Square Park, 1:00pm.