Moama-Echuca Lady Raiders were named Team of the Year, while coach Darryl Brown was named Coach of the Year at the Sportstar dinner on Monday.By Zach Hubber
The Moama-Echuca Lady Raiders dazzled at the Moama Bowling Club on Monday night when they clinched the Team of the Year award from a strong field of nominees.
The team’s ability to not only win back-to-back Bendigo Amateur Soccer League premierships but remain undefeated in 2012 made it the top team at the Sportstar of the Year awards.
The side’s feats were not confined to the home and away season, clinching the pre-season Lightning Cup and post-season Knockout Cup despite losing 11 players from the 2011 squad.
The award was complemented by Lady Raiders’ coach Darryl Brown taking out the Coach of the Year award.
Brown was the architect behind rebuilding the side last year after the exodus of players, proven by the Lady Raiders’ 21 wins, three draws and zero losses.
Brown said he had to start from scratch when the make up of his team changed dramatically.
‘‘I guess I probably went back into development mode and just decided to see what we could develop with the numbers we had,’’ he said.
‘‘At the start of the year we won the first couple of games and I thought, ‘All right, we’re on to something here’.
‘‘I think the girls gained confidence in those first couple of wins and they started training harder, started playing harder and they just kept improving and improving from week to week.’’
The coach said he was proud his side won the award after a year of hard work and highlighted the senior players for their experience and leadership on the pitch.
‘‘Sometimes you can get a bit sick of the coach’s voice from the sideline, so to have a couple more voices on the pitch was probably a good thing,’’ Brown said.
He said it was his love for the game which made the transition to coaching seamless.
‘‘I’ve been involved since I was yay high and I’ve always been around it and I just like seeing the faces of the players when they actually achieve something,’’ he said.
‘‘To show them they can walk out onto that pitch and mix it with the best players is what I love.’’
Brown started coaching the Lady Raiders three years ago, almost 20 years after his previous coaching stint with Spring Gully in the late 1980s to early ’90s.
Brown has only coached women, something he said was an easier task than coaching men.
‘‘They’re more responsive, they take on the constructive criticism and they want to learn,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m not hanging it on the boys, but I guess because it’s a slower form of the game (the women) are more defined in how they go about it.’’
The challenge of achieving three straight premierships is not lost on Brown after the club suffered more player departures, but his track record will have rival clubs on notice.
‘‘We’ve lost players again, so we’ll go back into development mode and start off and see what happens,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve still got a pretty decent side and should get a few players.’’
Asked what he was looking forward to in 2013, Brown said: ‘‘I’m looking forward to walking out there as champions and being hunted. Knowing that we beat every side out there last year and knowing every single one of them wants to beat us this year is fantastic.’’
Individual brilliance was also acknowledged in 2012 when captain Bridget Powell, goal keeper Kari Gulson, Melissa Vanzetta, Gillian Conway and association runner-up best and fairest Rowie Ilsley all made the BASL all-star side, with Brown selected as coach.
Team of the Year winners Moama-Echuca Border Raiders women’s soccer team (from left) Darryl Brown (coach), Bridget Powell (captain), Jessica Pitts, Rowie Ilsley, Kari Gulson, Frida Magnusson, Gill Conway, Paige Pinson, Cassie Powell, Tahlia Powell and guest speaker Robert DiPierdomenico
Coach of the Year Darryl Brown and Robert DiPierdomenico.
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