NPL grand final: Edgeworth trio lead by example ahead of decider with Broadmeadow

WINNING COMBINATION: Edgeworth captain Josh Evans, Dom Bizzarri and Pat Wheeler this week at Jack McLaughlan Oval. Picture: Marina Neil
WINNING COMBINATION: Edgeworth captain Josh Evans, Dom Bizzarri and Pat Wheeler this week at Jack McLaughlan Oval. Picture: Marina Neil

When it comes to role models for his young Eagles, coach Damian Zane has always had captain Josh Evans to call on during his run of four consecutive Northern NSW NPL premierships.

Arguably the best defender in the league, Evans has helped Edgeworth concede just 16, 14, 19 and 17 goals over the past four regular seasons.

Ahead of a fourth grand final, though, Zane has two more great examples for his young team.

Pat Wheeler and Dom Bizzarri, defenders who have played roles in midfield this season, have been two of the best in the competition this season and major factors in the Eagles’ continued reign despite the loss of six regular starters from 2017.

But Zane highlights the pair not only because of their success. Bizzarri was dropped ahead of the Eagles’ grand final win in 2015 and Wheeler featured only late off the bench in the 2016 victory. On Saturday night, they will be among the first picked for the clash with Broadmeadow at McDonald Jones Stadium.

“They had their disappointments in ’15 and ’16, but they came back better players the following seasons,” Zane said.

“I use them as an example to young guys who are maybe thinking about doing other things.

“They weren’t in that starting team three or four years ago but they didn’t up and leave. They rolled their sleeves up, identified they needed to do more, and look at them now.

“They are a great example to the young guys, with the way they handle themselves. When there’s a recovery on, they are the first two there. They take care of themselves. You want young guys seeing that.

“Josh, he’s the best example, and I think Pat and Dom strive to get to Josh, and that’s healthy.”

Bizzarri has found a home in midfield this season after the departures, and Wheeler has also spent time further up the park. Zane said the pair’s efforts “made us even tougher to break down”.

Evans praised the persistence and hard work of Bizzarri and centre-back partner Wheeler. He was confident the Eagles’ defence could win the day against the Magic attack of James Virgili, John Majurovski and Kale Bradbery.

“We know they’ve got speed up top so our goal will be to keep a clean sheet,” Evans said. “We know if we can do that, we can definitely get something at the other end.”

Comments