THERE’S probably no bigger rap in the Northern NSW NPL than to be labelled Edgeworth’s best defender.
But that’s how far Eagles coach Damian Zane has gone in describing the impact of departing centre-back Mitch Dobson.
The 19-year-old will play his last game for the leaders on Sunday when they host Hamilton at Jack McLaughlan Oval in round 17.
Dobson joined Edgeworth this season from the Jets Youth squad but he was always destined to leave before the campaign was done after accepting a full scholarship from Monroe College in New York. He will join former Joeys representative and Jets Youth teammate Cameron Joice at Monroe, who scouted Dobson after his efforts on the Australian Schoolboys tour of the UK last year.
Even though Zane knew Dobson would be leaving, it has not made the impending loss any easier to take.
Zane has built Edgeworth’s dynasty of three consecutive premierships on defence, with the likes of Josh Evans, Pat Wheeler and Dom Bizzarri, but he said Dobson had proven an even better player in his 11 games.
“He has been superb, he has been our best defender, I’m going that far,” Zane said.
“He’s going to be a massive loss. Having him has allowed us to push Dom into midfield and also Pat next to him to form that combination. If Mitch wasn’t playing the way he was, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.
“In pre-season we played Blacktown and we were depleted. Mitch Malia had just come back from Perth Glory and they had ex-A-League players in their whole front-line, and he was superb.
“It was one of the best games at Edgeworth while I’ve been there. I was just thinking, ‘How good is this boy?’”
Dobson said it would be hard leaving the top-of-the-table Eagles.
“It’s been a new experience,” Dobson said. “It’s a different atmosphere playing with a bunch of older guys, but I’ve really enjoyed my time there.
“I’ve learned new stuff every week and I’m been grateful for that. I’ll be able to take that on to other clubs.
“I’ve just got to keep playing like I have been. I’ve been improving every week under Zaney. It’s been a great time at the club.”
The Central Coast product, who will study sports management at Monroe, left the Emerging Jets system after a three-year stint with the US college opportunity in mind.
“They don’t really take through much youth onto the A-League,” he said. “A couple of players did go on, but I didn’t really see the opportunity of me breaking through into the A-League team.
“I just thought this was my best way to go. The scholarship came up so I thought I would give that a crack and see where that takes me.”
Zane was confident the Eagles, who lead the league by two points with a game in hand on second-placed Magic, had the squad to cope with the departure. And Dobson agreed.
“Edgeworth’s always been a team with a lot of depth and, even without me, I know they will continue to grind out results,” he said. “That’s what they are known for.”