Hawkesbury City FC’s under-18s have taken out their grand final in a nail-biter against a strong St George side at Valentine Sports Park.
The September 23 game came down to the wire and had supporters on the edge of their seats as St George, a club that has been dominant throughout the grades this season, slotted home two quick goals near the end of the match.
Coach Joe Cignarella admitted his heart was in his mouth as the Hawks, who had been leading one-nil with three minutes to go, let the opposition slip past their defence and even the score one-all.
“In the 93rd minute of normal time we scored to make it two-one, but … in the 96th minute they scored,” Cignarella said.
Goals were recorded by consistent performers Daniel Zahra and Callum Elliott, and with the scores locked at two-all the game moved to a penalty shootout.
Zahra stepped up again for the last penalty, finding the back of the net to ensure a five to four victory for the Hawks.
Cignarella said he was exceptionally happy for the side, as well as the club.
“I told the boys they were the hardest working team in the competition,” he said. “Their will to win is amazing.
“We ended up winning the last eight games in a row, we finished the season very strong. It will be even more exciting next season.”
Cignarella – who has been with the club for four years – has coached the side for the past two years, and saw them win the premiership as under-16s.
He thanked the coaching staff and the club’s supporters, who he said had been “tremendous” all season.
“Out of all the games and teams, we had the most supporters of any club,” he said.
The win capped off a triumphant week for Hawkesbury City FC, with first grade coach Dean Bertenshaw also awarded the 2018 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men's Coach of the Year by Football NSW.
Bertenshaw said he was surprised by the win, saying he had assumed the “St George boys would get it because they put together a pretty good year”.
“The other first grade coaches vote on it and we were lucky to come up with our number this time,” he said.