The Sydney Redbacks created an upset at the National Korfball Championships with one team reaching the final and the other taking points off the eventual winners in the B grade tournament.
Although missing out on the trophy by the narrowest of margins, both teams can be very proud of their performances, with several players in each team playing their first ever matches; against teams playing regularly throughout the year.
SCRKC (Blacks): Sarah Higginson, Gemma Pratt, Meena Subramanyam, Cheya Tyson; Simon Cunliffe, James Gounis, Wilfred Lau, Graham Morris, Mark Zilm
SCRKC (Blues): Joey Lai, Elise Mizzi, Victoria Wah, Karen Zilm; Rob Allen, Daniel Berg, Josh Berg, Neil Hayes, George Lincoln, Ben Mizzi, Sebastiaan Schlee
In an unprecedented move, Sydney Redbacks entered two teams into the B Grade competition, evenly split with the hope of both teams being competitive. Debuts were handed to Simon, Will, Elise, Daniel and Ben; in addition to late injury sub Josh who stepped in from the sidelines for the last game.
SCRKC (blues) 5-7 Glenelg
Scorers: Sebastiaan (2), Joey (2), Victoria
The first game of the tournament for Sydney started fast with two goals in the first few attacks – mercurial Dutchman Sebastiaan levelling at 1-1. The Redbacks then went into the lead as Victoria rounded her defender and slotted home the runner. Glenelg then found some rhythm and took a 3-2 lead before Joey brought the scores level once again as she exchanged passes with Sebastiaan, wrong-footing her defender and scoring the running-in shot. Defensive inexperience allowed Glenelg into a two goal lead at 5-3 before great fighting spirit from the Sydney players as they dug deep to come back into the game with another runner from Joey and a long shot by Sebastiaan. The goals dried up however and Glenelg managed to grind out a 7-5 victory, leaving the Blues to reflect on a competitive opening performance which could have gone either way.
SCRKC (blacks) 4-5 Boomers
Scorers: Graham (4 (2 pens))
Hoping to get a win on the board for Sydney, the Blacks started strong. Good interplay between Sarah, Gemma and Simon drawing fouls from shooting opportunities, with two penalties converted by Graham to put Sydney in an early lead. Boomers (who won the 2014 tournament) pulled it back to 2-2 before half time leaving the game in the balance. After the break, Simon grabbed a rebound between two defenders before passing to the unmarked Graham to score a short range shot. Graham restored the Redbacks two-goal lead with a drop off from the rebound to leave Sydney with an opportunity for a big upset. It wasn’t to be however, with Boomers coming back to take a deserved 5-4 victory amid several long shots from Cheya which bounced off the korf drawing gasps from the capacity crowd. A narrow defeat whilst not playing to the best of their ability left the Blacks optimistic for the rest of the tournament.
SCRKC (blacks) 10-6 SCRKC (blues)
Scorers (blacks): Sarah (3), Graham (3 (2 pens)), James (2), Gemma, Cheya
Scorers (blues): Daniel (3), Neil, George, Sebastiaan (pen)
The Sydney derby represented the moment where at least one team would put points on the board for the Redbacks. With both teams knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the other, it was an intriguing battle. Graham and Sarah combined to put the Blacks into a strong lead, one which they would ultimately keep despite a late fightback by the Blues in which Daniel and George formed a great combination. The former scored his first ever goal, and with newfound confidence managed to bag a hat-trick in front of his travelling fan club. George got one-up on old foe Graham, nailing a beautiful long shot before winning a penalty. In a post-match interview, George claimed that Graham has “lost half-a-yard of pace since Uni days”. Neil’s long shot was also in vain as Sarah’s 3 goals as well as two penalties won, along with a mid-range shot by Gemma and 2 from James proved enough for the Blacks to hold on for a 10-6 win.
SCRKC (blacks) 7-4 Arista
Scorers: Cheya (4), Graham (3)
Fresh from the win against the Blues, the Blacks went into the Arista game with confidence, however Arista took the lead. Graham scored a runner before Cheya put the Redbacks into the lead, sprinting round her opponent to finish the running-in shot. Both teams then exchanged goals as Graham caught and scored from the collect before Cheya scored her second runner of the game to make it 4-3. A stunning long shot from Cheya gave Sydney breathing room and another drop off from Graham made the Redbacks comfortable at 6-3. Cheya finished off a fine performance with an elegant turn from feed round her defender. The win left the Blacks with 2 wins out of 3 on day one, and a chance of making the final.
SCRKC (blues) 1-6 Arista
In the last match of the day, the Blues were hoping to end on a high. Unfortunately, Arista’s shooting was much improved in comparison to the game against the Blacks. Compounding this, Sydney’s shooting just wouldn’t find the basket – with several good opportunities going close but not close enough. In one of those games where nothing went to plan, Ben made a great move to get free but in the act of shooting went over his ankle. With no subs remaining, he played on until the end of the match but subsequent swelling ruled him out of the second day’s play. One bright spot in the match was Karen’s long shot from way out, showing everyone that she still has it after a couple of years without playing.
SCRKC (blues) 5-5 Boomers
Scorers: Neil (2 pens), Joey, Rob, Sebastiaan
Waking up on the right side of the bed, and the substantial Indian the night before fuelling their engines – the Blues came out of the blocks fast against the unbeaten Boomers. Joey opened the scoring, with her third runner of the tournament before a quick Boomers reply. Not to be stifled, Sydney again took the lead as Rob moved away from the post, steadied himself, and put the shot in – like it was never in doubt. A Boomers fightback took the score to 3-2 before Sebastiaan levelled, dropping off to finish – straight out of the textbook (which presumably exists in Holland). At half time, spirits were high and rightly so after a solid half of korfball. Elise in particular was showing a tremendous improvement in defence preventing her opponent from getting any easy opportunities. The second half would get even better for the Redbacks as the solid defence remained and opportunities to score were presented through two (somewhat contentious) penalties. It was no more than the Blues deserved however, and Neil made no mistake converting the consecutive penalties and opening up a two goal lead. It was later agreed (by Neil) that penalties should indeed count in the personal goal tallies. With the clock counting down, Boomers showed their experience and pulled a goal back. With a little over 1 minute left on the clock, Joey saw her mid-range shot bounce back off the rim. Although Sydney grabbed the rebound, inexperience meant that they were unable to retain possession. Boomers took full advantage and scored a heartbreaking late goal, leaving the Redbacks with no time for another attack. 5-all it finished and despite falling agonisingly short of a first victory, a draw against the unbeaten pre-tournament favourites was, on reflection, an excellent result and showed the true talent and fighting spirit of the Redbacks.
SCRKC (blacks) 3-1 North Adelaide
Scorers: Graham (pen), Sarah, Cheya
Billed as a must-win game for both teams, the Blacks started well – Sarah sliding a pass into Graham under the basket, who was subsequently fouled putting the shot up. The penalty was awarded and Graham duly converted, taking his personal tally to 5 out of 5 for the tournament. With a slender lead, Sydney’s attack stuttered – struggling to build on the early goal. Luckily the defensive end was able to bail the attack out, keeping a clean sheet until half time – with James in particular impressing with his all action playing style and retro get-up. After the half time break and a renewed focus in attack, the Redbacks went two up as Sarah got past her defender, receiving the ball far from the basket but still executing a perfect running in shot from way out. Norths made it a tense finale, pulling one back with a free pass, but Cheya settled the nerves with a running in shot to restore the two goal buffer. That would be how the scores would stay; Sydney holding on get the win and put themselves on the brink of the final. Although not a vintage performance, conceding only a solitary goal was a credit to the defensive concentration and application throughout the majority of the game by Mark, James, Meena and Cheya.
SCRKC (blacks) 6-4 Glenelg
Scorers: Mark (2), Cheya, Graham, Gemma, James
Knowing a win would seal a spot in the final, the Redbacks began with some sensational attacking; another runner by Cheya putting the first on the scoreboard. Things went from good to better as Mark found his range from down-town sending a long range effort screaming into the basket. Graham added a third with a drop-off behind the basket before Gemma outfoxed her opponent and showed composure to finish the running in shot for the fourth goal. James thought he’d added a fifth before half-time but his drop off shot was disallowed for a marginal defended call, leaving the score at 4-1. In the second half, Meena made a good move using her new touch footy skills to round her opponent, drawing a penalty in the process. Mark kept his cool to convert and open up a 4-goal lead. Complacency set in for Sydney as they subconsciously took their collective foot off Glenelg’s throat. This allowed Glenelg to pull it back to 5-4 as their shots started to drop. With time running out, the ball came into the Glenelg attack but Wilfred made a crucial interception to recover the ball and get the ball back to the Redbacks attack. As the border between time wasting and keeping possession became blurred, James found himself in space about 10-metres from the basket. With the referee considering a time wasting foul, James set himself and unfurled a perfect shot which sailed into the basket. In that moment, Sydney knew they’d made the final!
SCRKC (blues) 2-10 North Adelaide
Scorers: Josh, Neil
In the last main draw game, the Blues had an opportunity to go out with a bang. They started well, Rob bamboozling his defender on a number of occasions, scoring a running in shot only to be defended by a switch. It took a while for him to realise the goal hadn’t stood; afterwards stating “he must have been short because I didn’t even see him”. Debutant Josh started the game and instantly showed the application of his basketball skills in a korfball setting. Receiving the ball 6m from the post, he caught and shot in a fluid movement hitting the centre of the basket which would have ‘swished’ the net if there was one. After these early positives the game drifted and the first half ended at 5-1. Second half substitute Neil added a second for the Redbacks giving his defender the dummy, collecting the pass from Karen, coolly scoring the runner. That would be the last Sydney goal however, with only a late flurry of North Adelaide long shots adding to the scoresheet.
SCRKC (black) 3-5 Boomers
Scorers: Cheya, Graham, James
Making history as the first Sydney team to reach a final of the national championships, the Redbacks were confident of avenging the one goal defeat by Boomers the previous day. The Boomers took the lead but in a predictably close contest, Cheya again delivered, scoring a runner to level. Sydney then took the lead as Graham combined with Gemma to make just enough room to get a shot away that dropped into the basket. The lead didn’t last long as boomers scored twice to turn it around. Sydney didn’t lie down though, restoring parity as James continued his fine form by jumping highest to rebound then dropping backwards to shoot and score. Sydney then went close to taking the lead however shots from Simon, Gemma, Sarah and Graham just wouldn’t drop. Boomers took a 4-3 lead and with time running out, some frantic Redbacks attacks couldn’t force a goal. As the clock ran down, the Sydney defence stepped off in the hope of recovering the ball from a missed shot. Alas the shot wasn’t missed and the tournament was taken out of reach of the Redbacks.
Heads remained high though amongst the Redbacks ranks, and rightly so. Sydney showing tangible progress on previous outings: delivering one team to the final and the other taking a point off the champions in the group stage. No longer will Sydney be underestimated by the traditional Adelaide stronghold and next years’ goals will be adjusted upwards – SCRKC genuinely believing they can go one step further and take home the trophy.