In an epic match that will live long in the memory of those involved, the Tuncurry Forster Football Club Tigerettes overcame the Cundletown Jets in a penalty shoot-out to be crowned undefeated champions for 2018.
Since returning to the competition in 2016, the Tigerettes made their third successive appearance in the season decider, playing arch-rivals Cundletown each time.
With grand final wins level at one-a-piece, another close encounter was expected.
The match started evenly with both sides intent on limiting chances for the other.
By the 25 minute mark, the Jets had established authority in midfield through determined play and aided by the Tigerettes lack of formation and wastefulness in possession.
With the Tigerettes struggling to get the ball to their forwards Megan Couper and Meaghan Lambert, and pinned down in their half, a Jets cross resulted in the ball in the back of the goal.
With Jets players and supporters celebrating the referee consulted his assistant with a free kick awarded to Tigerettes for a foul on keeper Eileen McGrady.
Resolute defence from Jodie Eacott and livewire Jacquie Bailey-Rodick kept the score at nil-all heading into the break.
At half time coach Matthew Thompson appealed to his players to trust the formation, get back to the game plan, and focus on the elements that have worked for them this season.
The response was instant with the Tuncurry girls passing like they know how, building pressure and limiting quality possession to their opponent.
At the 60 min mark the ball was fed to Tigerettes Ashleigh Chambers on the edge of the Jets area, Chambers took two touches and calmly placed the ball past rushing keeper Jane Lynch for the opening goal.
The Jets struck back only five minutes later when a well placed corner kick caused a goal mouth scramble which resulted in one of the Tigerettes players accidentally knocking the ball into her own net.
Even though the remaining 15 mins were played at a high tempo clear cut chances were limited with the match 1-1 heading into extra time.
In the first period of extra time Tigerettes forward Lambert was brought down in the Jets area with a penalty awarded.
The regular penalty taker stepped up but uncharacteristically dragged the ball narrowly wide. With both sets of supporters heavily involved the match continued at a high tempo with players on both sides succumbing to cramp.
With only four minutes remaining a mazy run and stunning 20 metre strike from Jets captain Amy Love gave McGrady little chance, it was a goal worthy of winning any grand final with Jets players and supporters in raptures.
However there was still time remaining, the Tigerettes players never gave up and with seconds remaining Ashleigh Chambers once again had the ball on the edge of the Jets area.
Chambers had only fallen to cramp moments before but in what seemed like déjà vu she held off her defender before masterfully stroking the ball past the rushing Lynch to make the score 2-2.
It was now the Tigerettes and their supporters celebrating wildly with the Jets in disbelief.
The game went to a penalty shoot-out.
With the Jets winning last year’s game by way of penalties they might have been considered favourites at this point.
But confident strikes from Tigerettes Jodie Eacott, Kayla Simpson, Jamie-Lee Schmitzer, and misses from Jets Amy Love and Jane Lynch meant Meaghan Lambert had the opportunity to win the game.
The Tigerettes top scorer did not disappoint and as soon as the ball hit the back of the net she was swamped by her teammates, all in a state of pure elation.
There can be only one winner but both sides should be commended on their level of play and the mutual respect that has developed in recent years.
This was a great advertisement for the women’s game.
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