Good mates face off for grand final spot

IN 2009 Valentine coach Michael Bolch talked Chris Bowling into giving football another shot.

On Sunday Bowling, who now plays for Broadmeadow, will try to stand in the way of Bolch’s shot at a grand final as coach of Hamilton.

In his first season with Magic, Bowling has been instrumental in getting them to Sunday’s major semi-final.

The 35-year-old was outstanding in Broadmeadow’s 2-0 win over the Jets Youth last Tuesday, making countless saves to help Magic take second place.

A loss would have left them in an elimination semi-final.

The Toronto auto electrician followed that up with another excellent performance in the 3-2 victory over the Jets on Sunday, which booked Magic a meeting with Bolch’s minor premiers in the grand final qualifier at Darling Street Oval.

But it could have been a completely different story if Bolch had not come knocking on Bowling’s door in 2009.

A serious foot injury sidelined the Toronto shot-stopper for 2008 and he had no plans of returning.

‘‘I tore the plantar fascia, which is a tendon under the foot, and it put me out for 12 months,’’ Bowling said.

‘‘I thought, ‘That’ll do me’, because I’ve got a young family, I’ve got the business out here, and with the kids growing up and playing soccer, it takes up a hell of a lot of time.

‘‘I wasn’t doing a great deal, just coaching kids and doing a bit of running for fitness.

‘‘But the body was starting to feel good, Bolchy came knocking and I thought, ‘Why not?’.

‘‘I haven’t looked back. These last four or five years have been the best of my career.’’

In 2009, Bowling helped Valentine finish within a goal of the minor premiership. They lost to Hamilton 2-1 in the grand final.

Bolch and several Phoenix players moved to Hamilton, but Bowling stayed and played a pivotal role in Valentine making the league semi-finals and winning the State Cup.

Valentine missed the finals last year, but Bowling was joint winner with Magic’s Scott Carter of the goalkeeping award, which is judged on most clean sheets.

This time competition powerhouses Magic came knocking and, after a mid-season knee injury setback, Bowling is back to his best.

The knee problem forced him to miss the Northern NSW Select side’s first trial with the Jets A-League side, but he returned for the second game and conceded only one goal in a 60-minute effort.

He said the trial performance was the catalyst for his late-season run of form.

‘‘It gives you a bit of extra confidence,’’ Bowling said.

‘‘Mid-season I was struggling with patella tendonitis and I wasn’t training a great deal.

‘‘But I went and got some platelet-rich plasma injections in the knees and they came good and allowed me to get back into training.’’

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