Edgeworth coach Damian Zane told his younger players on Sunday to grab a photo with the Northern NSW NPL premiers’ cup, because it doesn’t “happen every year”.
Only, in Edgeworth’s case, it does.
The Eagles had wrapped up their third consecutive minor premiership before Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Lake Macquarie after second-placed Hamilton lost 2-1 to Broadmeadow Magic on Saturday night.
Edgeworth are chasing a third straight double, having won the past two grand finals since Zane took over as coach in 2015. They have made at least the round of 32 in the FFA Cup in the past three years and played in last year’s NPL Finals Series decider against Sydney United.
Even Zane cannot quite believe what the club has achieved.
“I didn’t imagine this happening when I took over,” he said.
“They’re just such a good group and so tight. I think nine out of the 16 have been here the whole three years.
“It’s just a special time for them. Some of the young guys, I just said to them, ‘Get a photo with the cup. Don’t think this happens every year.’ And I keep saying that every year. It’s quite unbelievable.
“This year I think every team has stepped up tactically, they’re defensively well set up. I thought Lakes set up well and transitioned quick and caught us a couple of times there.
“The league’s improved, but we’ve sort of got the jump on everyone.”
Zane said part of Edgeworth’s secret was tactical flexibility and not relying on a single attacking threat.
“We haven’t got any leading goalscorer, but they all chip in. Where do you shut us down? You don’t really know, do you.”
The Eagles face Broadmeadow, who are on a nine-match winning streak in the NPL, in the first leg of their semi-final at Magic Park on Saturday.
Zane said his side were in “cruise mode” on Sunday after the result on Saturday night guaranteed them the minor title, although the Roosters showed plenty of resolve in coach Anthony Richards’ last game at the club.
Nevertheless, Edgeworth should have taken the lead inside 10 minutes when Josh West tugged Keigo Moriyasu’s shirt inside the box. But Lachlan Pasquale hit his spot kick at a comfortable height for Benn Kelly to parry it away.
Edgeworth then gifted the visitors a goal when Pat Wheeler allowed a short goal kick to run across his body, only for Tom Walker to steal in and set up brother Sam, who rounded Nate Cavaliere and tapped home.
Centre back Josh Evans was then caught up field as Tom Sparre counter-attacked with pace and slotted home from a tight angle in the 24th minute.
Edgeworth laid siege to the Roosters’ goal from that point but had a good shout for a second penalty waved away, a shot cleared off the line and a Daniel McBreen goal pulled back for offside.
The Eagles finally found a way through with an odd goal in the 75th minute when Kelly was far too casual picking up a loose ball in the box and Aaron McLoughlin poked it home.
They grabbed a point in injury time when McBreen knocked down a header and Brody Taylor, who played at right back for the rested Ayden Brice, reacted quickly to steer the ball past Kelly.
“They were hungrier than us. You can try to motivate them all you like, but after last night you turn into cruise mode,” Zane said.
“I didn’t make a decision I’d make generally by putting Brody at right back. He was meant to start in midfield.
“They were disappointed after the game, but I said, ‘Don’t be silly and not enjoy the moment. You’ve deserved it the whole year. Don’t let today stop it.’”
Zane said his players were motivated by this year’s Saturday night grand final being played at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“The boys have seen the advertisement, and they want to play on that ground.”
The club has organised a trial game at home against the Central Coast Mariners the week after the grand final before they travel to the ACT to play Capital Football premiers Canberra Olympic in the first round of the NPL finals on September 16 or 17.
Also on Sunday, Adamstown finished the season well under interim coach Nick Webb, who is off to Lake Macquarie next season, with a 2-1 win over Maitland at Cooks Square Park.
Chris Berlin scored twice off Mitch Hunter crosses early in the second half, the second with a fine left-foot strike, before Zac Hill was allowed plenty of time on the edge of the box to lash a volley into the roof of the net.
Valentine finished the season in fifth with a 3-0 win at cellar dwellers Weston. Chris Brown scored a stunning left-foot volley on 30 minutes before Alex Faulkner scored with a volley of his own from outside the box and Alex Tserepas steered home a header in injury time.
Olympic play Lambton on Sunday at Edden Oval in the first leg of their semi-final.
Hamilton striker Kane Goodchild scored a penalty against Magic on Saturday night to wrap up the NPL goalscorers’ title on 14.