Cobram Roar’s under-12 side finished third at the Maccas Cup after making it through to the finals as the only country side out of 90 teams to venture into the final stage of the competition.
Held at Melbourne City’s training complex in Bundoora on October 1, the young Tigers walked away with their heads held high after two wins and a loss against stiff city opposition in their three games.
“It was a great day, it was an experience not only for the players but also for me myself,” stand-in coach Taner Tekin said.
“All the boys got to learn what the National Premier League sides were about.”
Tekin, usually seen commandeering the Roar’s under-18 outfit, led the 13 boys dressed in the yellow and black down the Hume Hwy in the absence of coach Manny Artavilla and was impressed at how the side stepped up to the plate.
The Roar took a little while to warm up, going down 3-1 to Geelong All Stars academy in its first taste of tournament football.
After conceding early on, Cobram rallied to cancel out the All Stars opener and looked full of life heading towards the half as a thunderous strike by a young Tiger cannoned off the crossbar and back into play.
However, Geelong held off the fleeting waves of attack from the country side and proved its class with a couple of quick goals to see out the match.
“The boys were probably outmuscled in that first game,” Tekin said.
“I think they were shocked at the physicality and how fast it was going to be.”
Determined to make a statement in its second fixture of the day, Roar brought the game to Bundoora Lions, this time players using their own physicality to net a couple of quick goals.
Cobram continued to push and went on to bag two more, eventually breezing past the Melbourne-based outfit 4-2.
But the best was saved for last.
Unable to progress any further in the tournament heading in to the final game, the Roar adopted a ``no holds barred'' approach for its match up with cup favourites Green Gully.
Gully, an NPL side which had not lost a game so far, having romped through its earlier games and looked primed and ready to deliver a similar fate to the Tigers.
But the young Roar side had other plans, ripping the pre-written script to bits and producing a giant-beating display to emerge as eventual 2-1 winners as the Cobram sideline erupted.
“Seeing these nine, 10, and 11-year-olds put their absolute all into it was so great,” Tekin said.
“It was class versus heart in that last game and, in the end, heart prevailed.”
Belting out the club song at the top of their lungs followed and, while it signalled the end of the road for the Roar, what the country boys had achieved was clear.
“Seeing the excitement and happiness on the parent’s faces was great and the kids were absolutely over the moon,” Tekin said.
“The boys sung the song after the game and left as winners, it was all worth the trip down.”