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Maclean High girls football team – North Coast Champions

ABOVE: Back row: Makeely Heron, Eryn Hammond (captain), Brooke O’Connor, Bree McFarlane, Emma Ward, Wayne Sutton (coach); (middle row) Sarah Skinner, Tahlia Grainger, Taylor Johnson, Bella Gilbert, Kayli Ohlmus, Zara Tabor, Holly Rolfe, Lizzy Hyne; (front row) Kelsey Sheehan, Tili Arndell, Shanyn Hammond. Image: Contributed.

In Round 4 Northern Rivers champions, Maclean High played Far North Coast champions Wollumbin High and won convincingly 8 – 1. Bree McFarlane was relentless and scored 5 goals with other goals going to Sarah Skinner and Kayli Ohlmus. Importantly our defence was again very strong and was led by Eryn Hammond, Lizzy Hyne and Makeely Heron.
The week in between these two games, three players from Maclean High; Sarah Skinner, Bree McFarlane and Shanyn Hammond played in the North Coast team in the NSWCHS Girls Football Championships at Glenwood in Western Sydney. As well, four players from Bellingen were also in the team and this made for an intriguing clash for a North Coast final against Bellingen in Bellingen played last Friday.
The game was played on quite heavy grounds and players from both teams had to work hard to move themselves and the ball around on the pitch. It was 0 – 0 at half time and Maclean, although defending well were struggling going forward with their usual fluidity. About half way through the second half, Makeely Heron injured her knee and had to leave the field. This required some adjustment in defence and midfield as players were moved around to fill in. As the coach and Makeely were slowly walking around to the bench Bellingen scored with a long range rocket that even the ever safe, Lizzy Hyne could not stop.
So, 1 – 0 down with about 10 minutes of play plus any injury time and things were not looking great for Maclean High. Play ebbed to and fro and for a while Maclean seemed to be getting the upper hand and had plenty of shots to no avail. Deep into injury time one of those shots was deflected by the keeper for a corner. With time running out, Sarah Skinner curved the corner straight into the goal for a 1 – 1 draw, as the referee blew full time before Bellingen could even kick off.
Now, extra time golden goal of 10 minutes each half and no half time break. At any time a goal would signal the end of the game. For the girls who had already played 70 minutes the thought of another 20 without a break was daunting. Again we got through the first 10 minutes of extra time defending well and having some opportunities ourselves. Deep into extra time with the prospect of penalties coming up and coaches and players both thinking of possible scenarios, Sarah Skinner again was the catalyst for a goal. She drove at an angle from wide towards the near post taking on players and as she was tackled and lost the ball out wide, Kelsey Sheehan was there again and put an inch perfect cross up and over the keeper and straight towards the flying Bree McFarlane who headed the ball into the net with about a minute to go.
The Maclean girls were ecstatic and all fell in a heap on Bree in celebration. This game, although won in the final seconds with attack, it was really won by a defending exhibition that was consistent. Every time Maclean lost the ball, all players became defenders and worked hard as a unit to delay and frustrate Bellingen.
To get to this stage they have won 5 games, the first three were Kyogle 9 – 0, Alstonville High 6 – 2, The Rivers School (combination of Richmond River, Lismore and Kadina HS) 1 – 0 and then Wollumbin HS 8 – 1.
Many thanks must go to the parents who transported players and stayed and cheered the girls onto an exciting victory.
It is the second time in four years that Maclean High has been North Coast champions and that is a testament to what the girls learn in their club football.
Our final 16 game will be against Winmalee High from Western Sydney some time in Week 10 of this term.
Wayne Sutton