A big 5-0 win over the Northern Riverina Nomads on Sunday has given the Tumut Eagles a flying start to their Football Wagga campaign.
Captain-coach Matthew Lopez acknowledged the Eagles will face much tougher competition in the weeks ahead, but was nonetheless delighted to begin the season on a winning note.
Both teams featured some young talent mixed with older heads, though it’s fair to say the Nomads were more heavily weighted with veterans, and they found it difficult to keep up with the younger legs of the Eagles.
On a warm autumn day, the Eagles began brilliantly and by half-time led 4-0.
Tumut continued to create scoring chances in the second stanza, but could only find the back of the net once, and that came courtesy of a penalty.
Tumut started with 16 players, and with interchange rules applying, the five bench players all received plenty of game time.
It didn’t take long for Tumut to dominate. They were crisper in the mid-field, solid at the back and far quicker in the forward match ups.
Less than 10 minutes in, Bailey O’Neil – making his senior debut – produced a long flanking run down the right side of mid-field and delivered a pinpoint cross for Rick Creati, who creatively finished for a 1-0 lead.
O’Neil went from provider to scorer for the next. He again outflanked the opposition down the right and from a distance saw the goal-keeper advancing off his line.
O’Neil’s long range shot at goal thumped into the back of the net and the Eagles were up 2-0 after just 15 minutes.
The Nomads may have lacked some mobility but they provided a physical presence and did their best to put the Eagles off their game.
But Tumut was beating the Northern Riverina outfit in just about every facet of the game.
Lachlan Anderson was influential in an advanced mid-field role and began to push forward as the half progressed, scoring two goals to the end the half.
The first was the completion of a great team movement, beginning with a throw-in, moving through the mid-field with precision to pry open the defence, and finishing with a cross to an unmarked Anderson, who had an open goal-mouth to shoot into.
Anderson had a bit more work to do for his second. He received a through ball, slid past a defender and expertly chipped the advancing goal-keeper to lob the ball in-goal.
The 4-0 lead gave Lopez the opportunity to try out some positional changes in the second stanza. He wanted his charges to work on their fitness, and focus on possession in order to prepare for tougher opponents throughout the season.
There was just the one goal in the second half, but it was a deserved one for Tim Dixon, also making senior debut, who caused terror for North Riverina down the rig wing with his electric pace in attack.
One such foray saw him earn a penalty in the 60th minute, as he was felled by an opponent while cutting back towards goal.
He was given the responsibility to convert the penalty to a goal, which he took with enthusiasm, blasting the ball from the spot past the goal-keeper.
That’s how the scores remained. Tumut could well have doubled its winning margin, given the opportunities on goal, but credit has to go to the opposition goalkeeper.
He saved a couple of long range attempts, including those from Steve Drury and Mick Gray, which looked destined for goal, while on other occasions the Eagles lacked the desired composure in front of goal.
One player who probably should have found himself on the scoresheet was Hamish Mason Elliott, whose enthusiasm and energy saw him a regular target for the midfield.
Tumut will face stiffer tests in upcoming weeks, with the strength and speed of the Wagga teams causing Tumut troubles in previous years.
While Tumut will be heavy underdogs in most games they face, Lopez said his team would relish the challenge of knocking off their more fancied opponents.
“We’ll continue to work hard at training in order to put our best effort in on Sundays,” Lopez said.