Sports columnist Vince Habermann looks at the annual football State Under-16 Talent Identification Series.
For the second week of every July school holidays for 10 years up to the start of the new millennium, the young rising stars of Queensland soccer used to converge on Martens Oval Bundaberg for the annual State Under-16 Talent Identification Series (TIS).
Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the 2000 Series which ran from July 9-15 and resulted in an historic victory for Wide Bay, claiming the title with a 2-0 grand final victory over South East Queensland (SEQ) in front of an excited bumper home crowd.
The team included nine local players, captain Fabian Tjin who had moved to the city to further his career, playing for Bundaberg Waves in the State League, vice-captain Simon Rehbein, Karl Coulton, John-Paul Culgan, Hamish Jansen, Simon Kelly, Brad Rennick, Brenton Walk and Hervey Bay resident Adam Wolf, who travelled several times each week to train and play for the then Bundaberg Academy of Soccer Excellence (BASE) in the Bundaberg First Division.
The coach was Fabian’s father Eugene, with Brad’s father Alan the manager, and Regional Director of Coaching Richard Mitchell “Mr Magic” also playing an integral role.
Wide Bay swept all before them, defeating Brisbane North 3-1, Sunshine Coast 7-2, South North Queensland 4-1, SEQ 3-1 and Central Queensland 2-0 in their round-robin games, and Brisbane North 3-2 in the semi-final, before also delivering in their date with destiny.
Fabian, who took out Wide Bay’s Player of the Carnival award, was one of just three players in the team who had represented the region at the TIS throughout their junior careers, the others being Karl and Gympie’s Luke O’Sullivan.
Wide Bay only conceded seven goals across their seven games in as many days and Hamish, whose mother Femia Eizema was the long standing Wide Bay Junior Soccer secretary and is the current Football Bundaberg president, really made his mark as their No. 1 goal-keeper.
He went on to tour Germany for three weeks as a member of the Queensland U-16 Talent Identification Squad later that year, participating in a training camp at the famed Cologne Sports School and playing in a series of games against representative sides.
Fabian, who later qualified with a Doctor of Physiotherapy and Bachelor of Exercise Science, now has his own Physiotherapy Practice at Margate, but he still has strong location connections as he married his St Luke’s Anglican School sweetheart Suzie Manskie, another outstanding junior all-round athlete.
There are only three of the other local brigade who still play, Simon Rehbein, Hamish, and Brenton.
Simon Kelly remains heavily involved in the game but has not played it since suffering an ACL injury four years ago, although he still plays top level cricket and he captained Brothers to a stunning upset Division 1 grand final victory in March.
Simon Rehbein, who went on to represent Queensland at the Australian Secondary Schools Championships in Darwin the following month, was an integral member of the Bingera squad which claimed the Wide Bay Premier League championship-grand final double last year.
Hamish, who is now the SC Corinthians Club Senior President and is a Life Member, has vivid memories of etching their names in history over that red-letter week.
“I think we were the only team to go undefeated to win it the history of the 16’s and it was the first grand final I ever won – I have got twin 13-year-old boys including one who is a keeper (Bailey) and a five-year-old girl and I still talk to the kids about it a lot,” Hamish said.
Brenton, who was the team’s number two keeper, no longer pulls on the gloves after having a shoulder reconstruction a few years ago, and he is now a local businessman who plays on the field for United Park Eagles in the men’s division.
Simon Kelly clearly recalls the crowd noise that lifted them to new heights as highly spirited teens.
“What I do really remember was all the older Wide Bay players in the grandstand, Benny Heidenreich and Jason McEwan and others from one year above us banging on buckets with drum sticks, like what they do in other countries and making a lot of noise – they made a great night of it,” Simon said.
“I’m still good friends now with a lot of the boys and those I don’t speak to regularly, we are in contact on Facebook.”
Simon said the triumph was definitely the highlight of his junior career.
“But winning first division grand finals are also always good and I’ve won heaps them of them in football and cricket,” he said.
Despite his past injuries, Simon is hoping to strap on the boots for one more season – in 2022.
“I’m looking at making a comeback that year and playing with us old boys in what will be Bingera’s 100th year.”
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