By Catherine Sanchez, Publications Officer
The William Clarke College’s Open Boys’ Football team were embraced wholeheartedly by the College community at the end of Term 2 after their heroic Grand Final glory in the NSWCIS Football Cup. The story of how these boys raised the coveted trophy high above their heads is nothing short of remarkable. Fuelled by their unwavering dedication, exceptional growth on the field and an unyielding resolve to attain greatness, they forged an extraordinary path to victory.
The NSWCIS Football Cup, a highly esteemed sporting tournament, offers a platform for students from independent schools to engage in a representative competition, opening doors to compete at State level. This prestigious event showcases renowned institutions such as Knox Grammar School, Newington College and Central Coast Sports College to name a few, who are known for their top-notch facilities, exceptional coaches and talented players, all dedicated to excelling at the pinnacle of the game.
From the outset of this competition, it was evident that this season was going to be electric. “The boys showed a level of commitment and determination that shone just as bright as their individual talent, pushing each other every week towards winning the trophy,” stated Coach, Mr Justin Bull. “The boys’ calm and collected manners helped them to rise on several occasions against teams that, on paper, should have beaten us. Each of the boys were instrumental in our victories, having a squad that provided threats from every position on the pitch.”
While the boys’ season was relatively free from too many challenges, they viewed the encountered obstacles as chances for personal development. Instead of perceiving setbacks as failures, they embraced them as valuable lessons, igniting their motivation to enhance their skills and achieve excellence. Whether they faced defeat, which provided a humbling experience, or encountered formidable opponents that tested their resilience, the boys of William Clarke approached every situation with a growth mindset, determined to learn, adapt and come back stronger.
During the season, the Football field became the boys’ classroom with every match giving the boys an opportunity to master their craft. The culmination of talent, passion, leadership and pride shown by each and every member of the squad drove the boys to face every opponent placed in front of them with courage and determination. Each week the boys honed their technical skills, tactical understanding and physical abilities, refining the areas of the field where strengths were lacking and pushing themselves to new heights. With each passing game, they grew stronger, both individually and collectively. The camaraderie among the boys remained steadfast, acting as a binding force that provided unwavering support and propelled the team forward.
As Term 2 drew to a close, Mr Bull reflected on the skills that were demonstrated by each player throughout the season, emphasising that every player on the pitch “displayed a performance greater than their last”. According to Mr Bull, the initial triumphs in the competition “can be credited in part to Zachary Sparkes, whose goal-scoring prowess accounted for four out of our six goals in the first three games, leading us to secure victories early on. A moment that also clearly stood out for the boys was Sumair Sira’s performance against Knox, coming off the bench during the second half to score the breakthrough goal within minutes of his arrival and thereby securing a 1-0 win to proceed to the Grand Final.” Mr Bull was also quick to mention that the season would not have been the same without the inspiring encouragement from Captain, Lachlan Gleeson, as well as the efforts from Brendan Ahmed in goals, who displayed “spider-like reflexes, particularly with his vital shot stopping abilities in the semi and Grand Final”.
For Mr Bull, the NSWCIS Football Cup Grand Final was an unparalleled performance that will be difficult to surpass. “In all my years of playing, coaching and watching Football, nothing will ever rival the spectacle that was the Grand Final,” he said. “The William Clarke boys came out swinging, scoring three goals within the first 20 minutes, leaving all of us speechless. The boys were on the highest of highs, which would be ended abruptly by Newington who scored two goals before the half time whistle to bring the score to 3-2.”
Despite Newington then taking control of the game after half time, the boys did not hang their heads in defeat but rather left everything on the pitch, pushing beyond their limits to score a late equaliser. “The sheer joy and elation from the boys, who had taken all of us on an emotional rollercoaster, brought a moment of joy and excitement to each and every spectator that evening,” recalled Mr Bull. “The boys fought with everything they had and more through extra time, rattling Newington’s defenses on more than one occasion. The way the boys pushed through over 100 minutes of high intensity Football was unlike a passion I had ever seen on a Football pitch – a true testament to their determination.”
In the end, the game was won by William Clarke on a penalty shootout, one of the most nerve wracking experiences on the Football field for many players. Mr Bull was proud to state that the team’s five penalty takers “showed a level of composure greater than that of their rivals, with each of them slotting their shots home to secure the win. An especially huge feat for Billy Illioski of Year 10 who showed composure and quality beyond his years by stepping up among the Year 12 boys to take a penalty.”
For Mr Bull, the mighty efforts of this team of champions were summed up by Science teacher, Mr David Senathirajah, who exclaimed that the “boys had just won the ‘Champions League of School Football’, a title extremely fitting to the feat the boys had just achieved. They were aware of the mountain they had just conquered, and even if for only a year, they had cemented their place as the strongest independent school team within NSW. Beyond the competition itself, the boys had just handed William Clarke College their greatest piece of silverware, doing what the Class of 2007 almost did all those years ago.”
One of the most important aspects that helped drive the boys to success was the staunch support from the William Clarke College community. In fact, the boys credited some of their performances to the fact that they were able to compete in front of a home crowd. “While some teams buckle under the pressure of hundreds of fans cheering them on, our boys thrived off the support,” stated Mr Bull. “The sheer number of William Clarke students, teachers and alumni present for the Grand Final was a spectacle in and of itself. The students made chants, created posters and showed a passion to support that drove our boys to victory. The boys walked onto the pitch of the Grand Final knowing that they weren’t just competing for each other, but they were representing William Clarke College, and showed the utter determination, passion and commitment that William Clarke College students possess.”
Mr Bull expressed his profound pride in the team stating, “the boys’ commitment to their growth and development has been truly extraordinary. They have learned to overcome challenges, push their boundaries and achieve their goals. It has been a privilege to witness their transformation, both as athletes and as individuals.”
The Open Boys’ team’s astonishing season instilled valuable life lessons that extended far beyond the confines of the Football field. The boys learned about perseverance in the face of adversity, the importance of teamwork and collaboration, and the rewards of dedication and hard work. These lessons will undoubtedly shape their future endeavours and contribute to their success in all aspects of life.
The NSWCIS Football Cup Grand Final will forever be etched in the annals of William Clarke College’s sporting history. The remarkable journey of the ‘Platinum Generation’ serves as a shining example of the power of commitment, extraordinary learning and unyielding determination. Their inspiring story serves as a powerful reminder that with unwavering dedication, steadfast resilience and the power of teamwork, amazing accomplishments are well within our grasp.