AS far as upsets go, this would be hard to beat for the Emerald Eagles Football Club.
The Central Highlands-based football team wreaked havoc against Rockhampton Premier League side Nerimbera at the weekend, defeating the fourth-placed Central Queensland outfit two-nil on their home turf.
The trial match may have only been a friendly, coinciding with the long weekend bye round in Rockhampton, but for Emerald coach John Salogni, the win couldn’t have been any sweeter.
“That’s the most electrifying night of my football career… it was an electrifying atmosphere,” Salogni said.
“I went there just to gauge what Emerald could offer and to come out with a two-nil victory is just phenomenal.
“When that last goal went in, our whole bench went up and they were clapping and cheering… it was like a grand final.”
The result was no fluke but the reward for endless hours on the training pitch.
Far from scraping through, the revamped Emerald side was bigger, stronger and more determined, and dominated the match from start to finish.
“In the first 20 minutes we had 90% of the possession – the passing, the support play, the communication, we were strong all over,” Salogni said.
“Rocky had the speed but we were sticking with them and getting back there in defence.
“They (Nerimbera) really did underestimate us.”
Nerimbera first division coach Anthony Zanda said despite having a few minor reshuffles in the team line-up, he felt the match was a good indication of what was to come from the Emerald rookies.
“Having five first division players out makes it difficult,” he said. “But it proved a point that they can be competitive in our league.
“I knew if they were willing to travel all the way into Rockhampton just to play us, they were always going to be very enthusiastic.
“They were as competitive as were we and I’m happy with the way some of our younger blokes stepped up.”
Emerald coach Salogni dismissed Zanda’s claims they were playing an understrength line-up, saying Nerimbera’s reputation was just as much on the line as theirs.
“You can’t say that they put on a soft side... you can’t use that,” Salogni said.
The senior side didn’t go it alone either. The Emerald ladies and youth teams also fielded sides for the Nerimbera trial. The Nerimbera ladies finished convincing winners over Emerald, and the Nerimbera youth side also dominated the junior match-up with the Eagles.
Understandably, the men’s latest win over Nerimbera was a big coup for Emerald, giving an enormous confidence boost for a club which only a number of months previous, was little more than a small-town amateur outfit.
The sporting adage “you’re only as good as your last performance” will no doubt be burning foremost in the minds of the Emerald players as they prepare for another Rockhampton trial, tentatively scheduled for the next few weeks.
“We’ve still got a long road ahead of us and I think we’re only at about 85% fitness at the moment,” Salogni said.
“But we’ve set the benchmark now for the Rockhampton teams.
“The team has come together with practically no game time and put it on them.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what the boys have achieved.”
New club members are welcome to join training Thursday evenings at Morton Park in Emerald.