It was a clash of comrade coaches, Kim Barker (Bellingen Victory) and Rachael Oberleuter (Sawtell Scorpions) and their mighty protégés that took to Bellingen's Connell Park fields on Saturday.
Both Barker and Oberleuter are great ambassadors of women’s football, offering their players their years of experience, positive guidance and support. These mirroring values and experience from the pair set the scene for a well-matched, tight-knit game of football set with respectable standards.
Referee Bruce Mackie blew the whistle and the game commenced with the Bellingen girls on the attack. It was only a matter of minutes after several attacking plays that the first shot on goal was taken. A strong low strike from the boot of midfielder Sam Barker created panic for the Sawtell keeper with its force rebounding out of her grip followed by her relief of the Bellingen girls not capitalising on play with the follow-up shot.
It wasn't long before the action flipped ends with play in Bellingen’s half seeing the Bellingen keeper under pressure, saving a free kick caused by a handball.
With the wind gusting across the field disadvantaging both teams, it was imperative that the ball be played low, precise and well controlled. A few mispassed plays and Sawtell corners saw the increase of workload placed on the Bellingen girls with midfielder Lauren Rigney being outstanding.
Confusion clearly reigned on the faces of both sideline benches 15 minutes in when a Sawtell ball appeared to move the top of the net, only to deceptively bounce back out off the crossbar and be promptly cleared by the Bellingen defence. Clearly justice prevailed for the Sawtell girls and within 60 seconds they sent the ball back into Bellingens half and secured their goal and the lead 1-0.
With time slipping away the Bello girls knew it was crucial to stay on the attack if they wanted to equalise by half time. A shot on goal from winger Cath Hawkshaw saw a vocally directive Sawtell keeper have no problem saving. Bellingen continued their solid attack and were rewarded by their sheer persistance in equalising in the final seven minutes of the half making it 1 -1.The goal was produced from a sequence of a well orchestrated throw in from "workhorse" Lauren Rigney followed by “pocket rocket" Jordy Guest weaving her magic through the Sawtell defence, sending the ball into the back of the net and the crowd cheering.
With both coaches maximising every second of half time discussion, it was a quick break and back into action. It is unknown whether it was information overload, anxiousness, too many red frogs or just "that crazy wind" when two minutes in a Sawtell free kick saw a jumbled, bunched mob of players in the Bellingen keepers box and a soft ball roll over the line to give Sawtell the edge 2 -1.
On the back heel, the Bellingen girls regrouped and sprung into action with some nice combination plays up the right side of the field from Ash Harris and Sophie Russell along with newcomer Emma Russell well positioned and unlucky not to capitalise on some great far post runs.
The second half was highlighted with goal scoring opportunities from both teams with "ohhs" and "ahhs" from excited sideliners eagerly watching balls tipping crossbars and veering slightly to the left and right of the goal.
With assistant coach Jackson Stanmore on strategy duty, ironing out positional play, the Bellingen girls kept up the pressuring attacks and were rewarded with the final equaliser, from the foot of Sam Barker. Despite being heavily marked the entire game, Barker skimmed three defenders and powered the ball straight through the keeper’s legs.
The score now tied at a 2-2 draw, both teams continued to battle out the remaining 15 minutes with the Bellingen side lifting and having the edge on possesion over the scorpions. Final whistle and an expected tight match result of a 2-2 draw.