In this week’s Sports Talk, Vince Habermann profiles Joshua Brillante, and talks local football, hockey news, junior rugby league, AFL and greyhound racing.
Bundaberg’s Joshua Brillante can’t wait to play his first game in over four months when Melbourne City takes on his former club and already confirmed league champions Sydney FC in the Hyundai A League at ANZ Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
City’s return match after the Covid-19 shutdown for the first time since a shock 2-1 loss to Newcastle Jets on March 23 was postponed by two weeks due to the out-of-control second wave of the virus which forced the three Melbourne clubs out of Victoria to be able to remain in the competition.
Joshua Brillante, who turned 27 during the league shutdown on March 25, played three glorious seasons for Sydney from 2016-19, including being an integral part of their teams which were champions in 2017 and 2019 and back-to-back premiers in 2017-18 under now national team coach Graham Arnold and were beaten by Perth Glory in the 2019 grand final.
The Across The Waves FC club product said moving to Melbourne City for the 2019-20 season was “the right thing for his career” and he is hopeful of turning the tables on them after Sydney beat their interstate rivals 2-1 in his first game against his former club on December 29.
With three tough games to go to complete their regular season, against three top seven sides, Sydney, then Adelaide (August 11) and Western United (August 19), Joshua said there is a lot to play for especially with Wellington Phoenix joining them on 40 competition points and moving past them into second place on net points differential, and with Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory within striking distance of them on 38 and 34 respectively.
Joshua Brillante said they had settled well into their temporary base in the Hunter Valley and had done everything possible to be ready for their comeback match.
“We left Melbourne after the lockdown, then had team lockdown in Balkin Hills but we were still able to train every day, which was good,” Joshua said.
“We’ve had good sessions leading up to our first Game and we are shaping up good with lots of training – even when the lockdown originally happened, we had programs set in place.”
The Sky Blues will have an advantage in match fitness, having played two games since the resumption of the season but Joshua has dismissed that as a factor.
“We have played against ourselves so we have some match fitness there, and it works both ways having played actual games – a lot of games in a short amount time can also be disadvantage, and our club has been great in looking after everyone – we have been in contact with our strength and conditioning coaches and done a lot whether as small groups or individuals,” Joshua said.
“Both us and Phoenix have got three games left now, so it’s important to win every game and cement that (second) spot.”
Joshua Brillante has got another year left on his contract with Melbourne and despite all that he has achieved so far, including five games for the Socceroos, 28 appearances for Australian Junior teams, 159 NSL/A League matches for Gold Coast United, Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne, and 24 games for Fiorentina, Empoli and Como during a stint in Italy from 2014-16, he believes his best days are still in front of him.
He also still dreams of playing on the highest stage after making the 32-man Socceroos’ squad for the 2018 World Cup, only to miss the final cut.
“On a personal level, there is still room for me to grow and get better as a player – I feel that as I get older, I get more aware that my body physically is still developing,” he said.
“I would love the opportunity to have a crack overseas again and play for the Socceroos in the lead- up to the next World Cup,” he said.
Covid restrictions permitting, Joshua is also hoping to get back to Bundaberg after this season finally finishes and again catching up with his many family, friends and fans.
Another A League player with strong local connections, Nick Fitzgerald, who played on loan with Bundaberg Spirit as a 17-year-old during the 2010 QSL season, and who since won an A League title with Brisbane, scored a goal as Newcastle upset Sydney 2-1 with a “spectacular finish” last week.
Matt Millar dinked an inviting cross to the far post where Nick (or Jamie Oliver as he was christened by coach Richard Mitchell during his time with the Spirit in reference to his remarkably similar looks to the British Cooking Guru) was in space, with the Jets attacker producing an “acrobatic scissor kick” to fire past Andrew Redmayne.
Locally, three United Park Eagles (UPE) goal machines were on fire last weekend, with the multi-talented Taylor Stumer hammering home seven goals in their Black side’s 8-0 shut-out of SC Corinthians Lionesses in the Ladies League, Luke Darcy snaring five in Black’s 13-0 intra-club white-wash of Purple in under-16, and Finlay Bath achieving the same feat in an identical score-line against ATW Saints in Under-14.
Zielke and Bath had each collected four goals the previous week.
In the Ladies League tonight, there are three games at 6pm, Diggers v ATW, UPE v ATW Saints, and Bingera Cutters v SC Corinthians Lionesses, and two at 7.45pm, ATW United v UPE Black and Bingera v Bargara.
Doon Villa have unfortunately withdrawn from the Wide Bay Premier League, so there is just one game in that division tomorrow at Martens Oval, with Bargara meeting Sunbury at 6pm.
At other venues at 6pm, Bingera have a home game against UPE, Granville host Brothers-Aston Villa, and KSS Jets host ATW at Hervey Bay Sports Grounds.
THERE were more family affairs in Bundaberg hockey on Saturday including with mother and daughter Susan and Hailey Kendall each grabbing a goal for Raiders/Rovers in their women’s 3-1 win over All Blacks and another daughter Emma also striking for the club in their 6-4 defeat at the hands of All Blacks in Under-16.
Year 12 student Ethan Rach, who only started playing the game last season in Division 2, snared his first ever goal, playing along-side his father and club stalwart Jamie as Waves Cities maintained their perfect record in the men’s division with a 4-0 shut-out of Arrows/Athletics.
Ethan’s grandfather Ron Rach is the club president, while his uncle Nigel Rach was also a champion player for the Blues over many years.
In the junior divisions, some of the stars of the day last Saturday included Tully Dorgan, whose two goals secured Arrows a 2-1 win over Cities in Under-11 and was again a match winner as they were again on target 4-1 at All Blacks’ expense in Under-13.
Isaac Wales also stood tall with a four-goal haul for All Blacks in Under-16.
In the senior divisions this Saturday, Arrows will aim up against Raiders/Rovers with the men at 2pm and women at 6.30pm, and Cities take on All Blacks with the women at 3.30pm and men at 5pm.
Junior Rugby League
Ethan Brennan was a man on a mission, being the Centre of attention, racking up four tries as Brothers plucked Easts Magpies 56-16 in Under-15 as the Bundaberg Junior Rugby League season finally got under way last weekend.
In Under-18, Wests Panthers laid claim to favouritism for the title with halfback Brendan Grills and interchange front rower Isaiah Bullard both notching doubles in a 46-6 drubbing of 2019 champions Hervey Bay Seagulls.
But it will be a battle royale when they lock horns with fellow first-up victors Wallaroos at Salter Oval at 2.40pm this Sunday.
The other Bundaberg side in the competition, Waves Tigers, will hit the road to take on the Seagulls tomorrow.
AFL Wide Bay
Local derbies will be the order of the day in AFL Wide Bay tomorrow, with in the Senior division, the win-less Brothers Bulldogs hosting arch-rivals Waves at 2pm with the Eagles certain to be fired up after their loss to premiers Bay Power last Saturday.
Down in Hervey Bay, Bombers will try to switch off the Power.
Three trainers each claimed double at this week’s Bundaberg greyhound meeting at Thabeban Park, Laurence Thomas, of Yengarie, Ricky Hassall (Torbanlea) and Allen Kelly (Howard).
Thomas took out the Novice event with Expat Monza and Glamorous Pins, in a Fifth Grade, while Hassall picked up Fifth Grades with Nerve Settler and Kiki’s Mom, and Kelly got the money with litter siblings Courtois (Fifth Grade) and Savuro (Mixed Second/Third Grade).
- Last week’s Sports Talk: Players and fans celebrate return of sport