Finishing runners up in our first season in Div1 in 2020, the whole team was raring to go for our second attempt to snatch the crown – and boy did we deliver! Going into the season with a new found confidence (After the nerves of the unknown Div1 had gone, and knowing that Balmain 1st team had moved up into the BBC…), we were the team everyone knew they needed to beat, and we weren’t going to let that happen!
After a very strong grading, we started off the season with 7 new names on the Div1 squad list. As well as welcoming Rangers Legends Anais and Igor back to the team after their season long sabbatical in 2020, we also drafted up Gus from the B’s and Lewis from the D’s after their incredible stand out performances caught our attention. It is rare for players to make it straight into the Rangers first team – however, Bas, Jordan and Dia all made themselves very hard to ignore, were amazing additions to the team and each had a brilliant debut season to remember!
As we roll into the first game of the season, I think Jordan’s debut was easiest to remember of the lot.. 1-1 in the 2nd half against newly promoted Lakemba A, he picks up the ball at the edge of the box and thunders the ball into the top corner to take us into the lead. Not to make things too easy for the team, he then gets a 2nd yellow and sent off for his potty mouth which had us down to 10 men with minutes to spare. Though we were the much stronger team, alongside a superstar player of the match performance from debutant Bas, Lakemba kept the pressure on in the final moments and were able to grind out a 2-2 draw.
Our second game against Leichhardt Saints went in similar fashion, with an unfortunate 3-3 draw against a team that only had 2 shots on target! After his outstanding death drop save at the end of last season, The Beresford Bachelor and Team Captain/Manager, Paul Flynn, donned the gloves this season. Like Jordan, he also didn’t want to make things too easy for us.. A ball that was going safely wide got the best of Paul’s nerves, and instead of using his hands he decided to shin the ball into his own net instead. Highlights of this match go to a brace from Lil Dan, and a battling finish from Lawrence – The Goal-Scoring Duo of the previous season were unsurprisingly back on the score sheets.
Swinging the momentum of results, we went into back to back wins against Earlwood (2-0) + Lakemba B (2-1) to put us up into 2nd place, 2 points behind Leichhardt Saints. Dan bagged himself another Brace to pull away on the top scorers list, with myself and Lawrence slowly trying to keep up (with great goals from outside of the box, leaving the goalie stunned, I must add..).
Our next 2 games were up against our rivals of the recent seasons, Balmain and Mr P – Always a tough battle, and usually always neck and neck on the table going into finals. First up, Balmain, which turned into a very nail biting end-to-end game. Balmain took the lead early on, but shortly afterwards Lawrence was brought down in the box, and I slotted in from the penalty spot to draw us even. Our big Irish threat in the midfield, John Ahern, then took us into the lead after converting it in from a corner – Not long before our recent Baby-Daddy Seb let Balmain back into the game with a spectacular own goal hitting it right into the top corner. Eager to redeem himself, Seb then throws himself at our next set piece delivery into the box and manages to knock it in with his groin to regain the lead, also earning him the new nickname ‘Golden Dick’. With minutes to spare, I look on from the sidelines to the agonising scenes of Balmain drawing level, 3-3.. However, in the final seconds of the game, we were handed a lifeline – Handball in the box, penalty given for the last kick of the game. With the team and the supporters shouting at me to sub myself back on and take the penalty, heart in my mouth I stepped up to the ball and we won the game 4-3, what a relief!
We then faced Mr. P in a midweek clash, under the lights of the fortress, Blick Oval. Another brace from Dan (following in his pattern of 2 goals every other game), and a tenacious goal from Lawrence had us dispatch of Mr. P with relative ease in a 3-1 win. This continued our undefeated season, and took us to the top of the table with 4 points to spare.
Just after we gained Jordan back from his 5 game ban, Aaron then decided it was his turn to see red and face another ban.. In a 1-1 draw against bottom of the league Punchbowl, Aaron puts us into the lead with a great strike only to then get too handsy on the floor with one of their players, with the ref taking both teams down to 10 men to see of the rest of the game. Highlight includes a snapshot save from Paul to keep us in the match – I wish I could say it was a shot from one of the Punchbowl squad, but no.. Gus was desperate to add himself to the scoresheet, and thought scoring in our own net was his best chance at that..
With the team picking up a number of injuries, as well as Aaron’s ban, we went into our 2nd fixture against Lakemba A with only 11 Div1 players – Huge shout outs to Dean + Michael from the C’s after coming straight from their match to help us out. With Paul away this weekend, Igor stepped up to don the gloves, and delivered a cat-like player of the match performance in a 2-2 draw, that certainly would have been a loss without him between the posts
Our final 2 games of the season, before we were so rudely interrupted by COVID, saw us turn around the recent draws with us going 2-0 against Leichhardt Saints, and 3-2 against Earlwood. Highlight of the Leichhardt Saints game had to be from Rob Phillips, Div9 Loanee for the game, coming on with 15 minutes to spare and firing the ball past the goalie from 30 yards out – What a way for him to stamp his mark on his first league appearance for us!
Against Earlwood, Gus finally added himself onto the goals tally list, Dan scored a quick reaction tap in, and I scored a (extremely wind assisted) free kick from inside our own half. Two great wins to wrap up an incredible undefeated season in Division 1, securing us the title 3 points ahead of Balmain.
I’m incredibly proud of everyone in the squad this season, never letting our heads go down and having the motivation to fight back as a unit when the odds seemed against us at times. I can’t wait to do it all over again with you next season, hopefully a season that takes us through to the finals and our hands on the Major Championship Trophy.
Special shout outs go to Aaron + Paul, it really is a team effort and I couldn’t have done it without either of you, all your help and support is greatly appreciated.