The Queensland Cyclones beat long-time rivals New South Wales to win their third straight National Powerchair Football Championships title in Brisbane last weekend.
Queensland won a dramatic grand final 4-3, although the visitors made the Cyclones sweat on their victory, coming back from 4-1 down in the second half to close to within a goal of the hosts with five minutes of the game remaining.
However the Cyclones kept their nerve to ensure that the side earned their fourth National Powerchair Football title, going through the competition undefeated from eight matches.
Capping off a successful week for the hosts, Cyclones and Poweroos star Tristram Peters took home the Golden Guard award as tournament top scorer with 16 goals, while 10-year-old Queensland Barbarians player Jack Parry was honoured with the tournament Most Valuable Player award, in what was his first major championships appearance.
Hosting the championships for the first time, Queensland came into the competition as favourites to take home the title and laid down an early marker on the opening day, seeing off perennial rivals New South Wales 3-1 in a blockbuster clash to open the tournament.
Football Queensland (FQ) CEO Richard Griffiths was in attendance on that opening day of competition and was impressed with what he saw.
“It was an inspiration watching these athletes ply their trade on the national stage.” Griffiths said.
“Watching their skills, their tactics and the way they defended and maintained possession – it was incredible.”
That high standard of football continued throughout the entire tournament, particularly from the Queensland side who scored 52 goals in their five remaining round-robin matches at the expense of just one conceded to book a semi-final date with Western Australia.
The West Australians put up a fight, the defensive player of the tournament Dylan Needham scoring from distance early in the second half to make the score 3-1, but the hosts regrouped and powered home in the second 20 minutes to run out 10-1 victors.
That set up a Grand Final against New South Wales, who had a battle of their own against New Zealand’s Kiwi Red side, needing a last minute goal from Andrew Kim to come from behind to secure an emotionally charged 2-1 victory.
Queensland started the final with a bang, Peters opening the scoring inside two minutes after a glorious flowing move down the court involving Josh Merkas and Bryce Castles.
The visitors came out firing in the second half, 2017 World Cup MVP Abdullah Karim capitalising on a rare error at the back to put New South Wales back on level terms within 60 seconds of the restart, but 90 seconds later Queensland were back on top, Peters pushing over from close range to restore the host’s lead.
Castles doubled Queensland’s advantage five minutes later, firing a perfectly-placed corner between defender and ‘keeper to squeeze into the goal, with Peters giving the hosts a three goal cushion just moments later after some glorious work down the middle of the court from Merkas.
Queensland might have felt home and hosed at that point, but Karim snatched one back from a Dimitri Liolio-Davis corner with a little over ten minutes remaining before that combination connected again – this time from a free kick – to reduce the deficit to just a single goal with four minutes on the clock.
However the Cyclones held their nerve to see out the victory and ensure the trophy would stay in Queensland for at least another season.
The second Queensland team, the Barbarians, found the going a little tougher over the course of the week, narrowly missing out on victories against an impressive Kiwi Green (1-0), Western Australia (2-0) and Victoria (1-1) to set up a clash with the Kiwi Green’s in the 5th/6th play off.
Although the Barbarians fell to the Greens in that playoff, ending the tournament in sixth spot, the side were honoured with the tournament MVP award for Jack Parry.
Brisbane Strikers player Parry – who at ten years of age was the equal youngest player at the tournament – was a standout performer all week, controlling the Barbarians’ midfield and launching the attacking raids, as well as scoring both his side’s goals for the competition.
Queensland athletes played a prominent role in securing victory for the Poweroos in their international match against New Zealand immediately following the tournament, retaining the Ditch Cup in the process.
Four Queenslanders made the Australian eight – Bryce Castles, Josh Merkas, Tristram Peters and Jack Gillespie – and two combined for the opening goal, Castles connecting with Merkas’ pass to steer the ball in across the face of goal, before Karim added a second to seal the 2-0 victory.
Queensland Cyclones: Bryce Castles (Brisbane City PFC), Tom Dickson (Strikers PFC), Jack Gillespie (Moreton Bay Jets PFC), Tom Latcham (Brisbane City PFC), Josh Merkas (Strikers PFC), Tristram Peters (Moreton Bay Jets PFC).
Queensland Barbarians: Zac Burley (Brisbane City PFC), Darcy Clews, Jack Parry (both Strikers PFC), Kevin Pretorius (Moreton Bay Jets PFC), Sam Uchytil (Strikers PFC), Mark Warren (Brisbane City PFC).
Poweroos squad: Bryce Castles, Jack Gillespie, Josh Merkas, Tristram Peters (all Queensland), Jordan Crane, Abdullah Karim, Dimitri Liolio-Davis, Chris Turnbull (NSW).
Queensland Cyclones results
QUEENSLAND 3-1 NSW
QUEENSLAND 7-1 New Zealand Red
QUEENSLAND 11-0 Victoria
QUEENSLAND 13-0 Western Australia
QUEENSLAND 12-0 New Zealand Green
QUEENSLAND 9-0 Queensland Barbarians
QUEENSLAND 10-1 Western Australia (Semi-Final)
QUEENSLAND 4-3 NSW (Final)
Queensland Barbarians results
Barbarians 0-10 NSW
Barbarians 0-1 New Zealand Green
Barbarians 1-7 New Zealand Red
Barbarians 0-2 Western Australia
Barbarians 1-1 Victoria
Barbarians 0-9 Queensland
Barbarians 0-2 New Zealand Green (5th/6th Playoff)
Words: Simon Smale
Images: Diane Conaghan