Thank you to Andrew McDougall for the following report:
After a dominant 11-3 league season, the TFC U11 Girls Orangutans were keen to atone for their 1-point showing at the 2022 Hobart Cup. With expectations high, the girls took care of business in the opener, dispatching Beachside with a 4-0 win on the dew under the Friday night lights, before backing up with a further 4-0 win against the Flaming Hot Cheetos on Saturday morning. A win against old foe Lenah Valley on Saturday afternoon would shore up a final spot, but in a tight tussle, Lenah Valley clawed two late goals back to draw 3-3, in one that got away.
That meant the race was on for top spot in the group, and after Lenah Valley won their game on Sunday morning, the ‘Rangas knew only a win in their final game would see them through to the final. A late illness scratching from the team saw a surprise promotion in the form of young Asher Clarke from the U9s, who strode confidently into the Lion’s den. A dominant 2-0 win against Kingborough saw the girls progress to the final on goal difference, to face a Launceston side with an unblemished record.
The stage was set in the Sunday afternoon sun at Queenborough, and with sushi dispatched, and cricket nets climbed, the girls were primed to get out there and prevent the trophy from heading up the Midlands Highway.
It was Launceston who started the sharpest. The Northerners had Taroona on the back foot from the off, and scored inside the first two minutes. A mix-up in defence saw their second go in shortly after, and the Orangutans had a mountain to climb. 2-0 at half time. Though despite the deficit, belief was still strong.
Heading downhill with the aid of a slight breeze in the second half, the ‘Rangas came out firing. The relentless pressure saw Tess Balfour bundle home a loose ball in the box midway through the half, and the comeback was on. The girls were dominating the play when Suiki Proud thundered a shot that was parried into the underside of the bar. It looked like the goalkeeper had done enough, but the topspin imparted on the ball, dragging it out of the reach of the recovering keeper and into the back of the net, from a distance looked like destiny.
Emotions were spilling over as time drew near, and despite Taroona’s fearless pursuit of the winner, the deadlock could not be broken. Without an official in sight, there was break in the action as the coaches conferred on what to do next, but the girls’ focus didn’t waiver. With two 5-minute extra time periods ahead, the team was reminded that irrespective of it being a big focus at training a few weeks ago, and what it might look like when the Matildas are doing it, it would be preferable to win the game before it went to penalties. But while they dominated possession, there was no way through for the Orangutans, and to penalties it went.
In a scene reminiscent of the coach’s heyday in the discotheques, all the hands were in the air when seeking volunteers for the penalties, such is the confidence and enthusiasm from the group. And the order was set.
Anxiety levels were high as the reality dawned on the players. But Tess, trusted with the opening penalty, cooly slotted into the bottom left corner.
Launceston missed their first, before successful conversions from Annabella Clauson and Suiki maintained Taroona’s one-goal advantage. And when Lucette Crombie stepped up and made it 4-2, there was brief celebration before the referee ordered a retake - ruling Lucette hadn’t waited for the whistle. Unfortunately for Lucette the retake bounced off the inside of the post, across goal, but not over the line, and things were back to level.
But parity didn’t last long, as goalkeeper Eliza McDougall dived high and to her left to save the next Launceston penalty.
A quick regroup, and it was Eliza’s turn to head to the spot to do what Mackenzie Arnold could not. With nerves of steel, Eliza Top Bins-ed it, and wheeled off, Courtnee Vine style, into the arms of her on-rushing teammates. The celebrations further heightened once they confirmed that meant they had won!
Penalties are a cruel way to end such an epic match, and the devastation on the Launceston players was real. However, it was a fantastic tournament from them, unbeaten in normal time across the weekend.
But for the Taroona Football Club’s U11 Girls - the Orangutans - each and every one of you wearing the orange shirt – a heroic team performance, and our heartiest congratulations!
2023 U10/U11 Hobart Cup Champions!