On an otherwise quiet day in Shepparton, McEwen Reserve was the town’s focal point with a feast of soccer on offer.
The Victorian Junior Soccer Country Championships had the sporting precinct’s vast facilities put to the test, as the state’s best country players joined their representative sides to battle for glory.
In a strong display of the brilliant young talent Shepparton has to offer, three sides made it through to yesterday’s grand finals.
The under-11 boys held their own in their final against Geelong, but ultimately fell 1-0 to a special goal.
The Shepparton side came on strong after falling behind in the second half, but dreams of an equaliser were halted by the final whistle.
In a valiant effort, the under-12s also made the final, but could not raise the trophy on home soil.
Another strong effort came from the under-14s; though beaten 2-0 in the final, it had taken a memorable semi-final win just to get there.
‘‘They had to go to a penalty shootout in the semi-final and it was the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen,’’ Shepparton Junior Soccer Association secretary Karen Hocking said.
‘‘After the semi-final we said to them it doesn’t matter what happens in the final because they did so well just to get there.
‘‘They kept their heads up and never gave up and we were so proud of them because they all did amazingly.’’
While Shepparton’s girls sides did not make any finals, Hocking said the experience had been huge.
‘‘The girls had a great time, and it was awesome just to get a squad together to represent Shepparton,’’ she said.
‘‘It was a young side, the under-12 squad even had under-10s and under-8s players in it.
‘‘That’s part of our effort to move women’s soccer forward, the girls were smiling the whole way through and made some good friendships.’’
Summing up the three-day event, Hocking was borderline speechless she was that amazed with its success.
‘‘It was awesome, just absolutely amazing, we are over the moon with how it has all gone,’’ she said.
‘‘The best part has been the amount of volunteers and helpers we have had involved. All the schools and clubs sent volunteers to do everything, whether it was setting up, running the barbecues, or helping clean up.
‘‘Everyone has been just wonderful and fantastic and without them we could not have done it.’’