The Urunga Raiders Under 12 Boys defeated the Coffs Coast Pumas in the Grand Final on 8th September at Coffs International Stadium. The Grand Final campaign, however, started on a sour note with our specialist right back, Noah Ashurst-Casey, fracturing his foot three days before the game and having to sit out the match on the bench along with our rampaging left winger, Kaija Kononow ,who was already sidelined with a torn tendon. This blunted our attack as one of our lightning fast wingers, Dylan Wellington, dropped to right back.

Unlike the previous couple of weeks, the Raiders started slowly, allowing the Coffs Coast Pumas centre forward to break down the middle, with Raiders keeper, the Bowraville ball stopper, Matt “Spider” Kovendy, pulling off a great save. Urunga then started to settle and slowly began to dominate. Joe “I’m Everywhere” Soergel was brought down just outside the right hand side of the box after stepping a couple of Puma’s players. Ryan “Ronaldinho” Kononow took the free kick, a dipping out swinger from 25 metres that slid in just under the crossbar for the Raiders to go 1 up. Momentum was now firmly in the gold and black camp, with Urunga piling on the pressure. A perfectly weighted through ball teased the Puma’s keeper off his line but not quickly enough as the “Bellingen Express”, Kain Selem, arrived right on time to skip past the diving keeper and expertly slot the ball into an unguarded net. Raiders 2 Pumas 0. Urunga then flicked the switch to cruise control, knocking the ball around and continuing to dominate the balance of the half with the few Puma attacking moves snuffed out by fast, intelligent play by the Raider’s backline. Luke “Stopper” Guest saved his best game of the season for the Grand Final, repelling all Puma attacks from his left back position and classily stepping players and finding feet with his passes. Dylan “Dynamite” Wellington kept the Puma’s left winger under control with raw pace, having a blinder at right back.

Tireless play from our midfield trio, Joe Soergel, Patrick “Perpetual Motion” Steward and Liam “The Wall” Nisbet, continued to shoot down any Puma attacks before they began. Any long balls that by-passed our midfield were mopped up by the dynamic duo, Toby “Boy Wonder” Edman and Harrison “Black” Knight, both of them having their usual safe, panic free game as dual centre backs.Constant left wing movement by Bryce “Boom-Boom” Batchelor, and Bryce “The Harasser” Hickey as they linked with the midfield, gave the Puma’s right back a migraine. Kodee ”Cranium” Ashurst-Casey showed that his headed goal from a corner in the preliminary final was no fluke with more excellent positioning down the left flank also.

After a quick half time pep talk from a very happy Coach, the kids resumed where they left off with the constant pressure and direct running from the tireless Joe Soergel resulting in another free kick just outside the box on the left hand side. Ryan Kononow again took the kick, this time a bending inswinger. The keeper managed to get his finger tips to it but was unable to keep it out. Raiders 3 Pumas 0. The Puma’s had to lift and they poured players forward, rattling the left upright after Urunga failed to clear the ball from their penalty area. However, with the Puma’s now desperate and pushing bodies goalward, this allowed the Raiders to counter attack with Ryan Kononow, slipperier than a greased eel, running the ball from half way into the Puma’s 18 yard box, only to be brought down as his leg went back to shoot. Penalty. Ryan took the kick, only to see it rebound off the right post, causing a prematurely celebrating Coach to madly try and stuff a cork back into a champagne bottle. The glimmer of hope that this gave the Puma’s was all but snuffed out soon after as the Raiders again countered with our right winger, Matt “The Assassin” Richardson, being rewarded for his constant hard running by pouncing on a through ball and beating the keeper with a clinical finish. Raiders 4, Pumas 0, with the scent of imminent victory pervading the player’s and fan’s nostrils. The Puma’s to their credit, were not to be denied, scoring a consolation goal late in the game as the Raiders started to tire.

Final score: Raiders 4 Pumas 1. Great game, great kids, great result. There was even a medical breakthrough after the game with the Raiders coach finding a cure for insomnia with his victory speech. A big thank you to Jacqui Kononow who looked after the team managerial responsibilities over the season, Chris Batchelor for all her behind the scenes work and bringing water and half time oranges, Steve Steward for helping at training and all the parents who not only came to watch the team, but washed jerseys and helped out in the canteen. GO YOU RAIDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!