North Sunshine Eagles will not be hoisting the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 1 spoils at season’s end, but did have a major say in which club will be having that honour.
The Eagles have been a nuisance for second-placed Geelong all season – claiming four of a possible six points in two games against the title aspirant – including Saturday’s 3-0 win at Larissa Reserve that all but decided the title winner.
Geelong’s defeat meant that a win for Altona Magic 24 hours later would decide the title then and there.
The Magic got the job done with a nail-biting 2-1 win over Western Suburbs on Sunday to clinch top spot and earn promotion to the National Premier League.
For North Sunshine, it was not about the Magic or Geelong, it was all about giving the fans a proper send off in their last home game of the season.
“I stressed it to the players all week, it’s the last home game of the year, a lot of our fans that come, we get a big supporter base here, but a lot of them can’t make it to an away trip, so it’s the last time they were going to see us until next season,” Eagles coach Ben Isai said.
“It was good to end it on a good note for them.”
It just about seals third spot for North Sunshine.
The Eagles inconsistency cost them a shot at a chance of winning the title, but they were not that far off.
A lot can change over a summer, but the Eagles recent form and likely third-placed finish is an encouraging sign for the club going forward.
In the past two games, the Eagles have banged in eight goals and conceded none.
Since losing to the Magic on the last Saturday in June, the Eagles have won five, lost two and drawn once.
“The performances and the mentality of the players has been quite good,” Isai said.
“Hopefully we can finish off the year with another win and that will put us in the 40-point bracket, which will be a rather successful season for us.
“Given their [Altona Magic and Geelong] positions on the ladder, they’ve been the two standout teams.
“Consistency is massive, especially in a tough league and we unfortunately had some draws and a couple of losses that didn’t help our cause and that affected the players, making it a little bit hard when you’re chasing two very good sides.”
Irrespective of the result on Saturday, it was a massive day for everyone associated with North Sunshine.
One of the Eagles top players, Shane Rexhepi, ran his annual SR13 appeal day to raise funds and awareness for cancer, which took the life of his father.
“Football is great, we love it and it’s good to get a win, but I’m pretty proud of the efforts of the club and the supporters for donating a large amount to Shane’s cause,” Isai said.
“We raised $3000 on the day and Geelong Soccer Club even contributed $500, so it was a great gesture by them.
“Every year we dedicate a fixture to it and this week was the game we dedicated to it.”
Fittingly, Rexhepi was one of North Sunshine’s best on the day, forming an impenetrable central defensive combination with Darren Lewis.
It was the creativity of Diellon Memishi and finishing of Feston Azizi, who scored two goals, including a rocket of a long range shot, who were the keys to unlock the Geelong defence.
North Sunshine will round out the season with a trip to Banyule City on Saturday.