A COOL Hugh Thomas finish with four minutes left on the clock triggered scenes of jubilation from the Bathurst District Football under 14s representative side on Saturday - it was a goal which won them the Country Cup.
Thomas' goal handed Bathurst a 2-1 win in the final against South Tablelands at Proctor Park, the hosts having fought back after being a goal down at half-time.
Captain Zac Johns, who has been representing the Bathurst District Football Association since under 10s, was delighted with the way his team-mates performed.
"It feels very good," he said.
"This was our first year in the Country Cup ... it was a very good achievement. I feel proud to captain the team we've had, I've worked up with some of the boys we had from the start [in under 10s].
"We were a bit worried going into half-time down one goal, but we kept our calm because we knew we could beat them.
"After that goal, we all got around our goal scorer [Thomas], even the goalkeeper came down."
While Johns admitted he "wasn't real happy" to see his goalkeeper leave the box to join the celebrations, he could not help be happy with how season 2021 finished.
Before their NSW Football Country Cup success, they went undefeated in the Western Youth League and kept that unbeaten streak going when winning the Forbes carnival.
"It was a great season we've had. We had a good team this year and it was a great way to represent. I want to say a special thanks to Roy [Thomas] for coaching us," he said.
Just as Johns enjoyed the campaign, so too did coach Thomas.
"It's an amazing feeling I am just very proud to be part of that group," he said.
The under 14s Country Cup involved six teams - Bathurst, Lithgow-Mudgee and Dubbo representing the Western area, Eurobodalla and Southern Tablelands lining up for Southern, while Griffith flew the flag for Riverina.
On Friday Bathurst began with a 3-1 win over Dubbo, beat Eurobodalla 2-0 then conquered Southern Tablelands 3-0 to be undefeated after the first day of action at Proctor Park.
Thomas' side then beat Griffith 5-0 to ensure they'd be in the final despite falling to Lithgow in their last pool match
In the decider on Saturday afternoon Bathurst came up against Southern Tablelands and found themselves down 1-0 at half-time.
But Thomas knew what his players were capable of and called on them to focus. The Bathurst 14s responded and momentum shifted.
"I told them at half-time to keep doing what we'd been working on at training and we dominated the second half," Thomas said.
"It was a defining moment of the whole weekend really, they never give up, that's how they play, they keep trying to play.
"We really came after it after almost five hours of football, to dominate a second half at the end of the tournament was phenomenal actually."
Bathurst came close to scoring a number of times before Noah Soetens managed to lock things up.
The hosts then pushed hard for the match winner and as the clock ticked down it was Hugh Thomas who found it.
"We created a few chances, so we knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time before we'd get that first goal and I was always confident we'd get the next one. Their keeper was a really decent keeper and kept them in it," Thomas said.
"We scored the winner with four minutes to go. It came from a cross and Hugh took a touch inside the box and picked his spot in the corner.
"We were unlucky not to score a couple more really, we hit the post and their keeper made a really good one-on-one save against one of our forwards.
"All the boys and me want to thank our manager Alana Brown, over the season it's been an awesome bit of organisation ... and I want to thanks all the parents for their support too."
While his side was unable to hang onto its lead, Southern Tablelands coach John Edwards was "super proud" of what his they produced in the NSW Football competition.
"What they achieved over the course weekend was unbelievable. The way they represented their town this weekend was outstanding," he said.
"[They] Played some brilliant football and worked their way into the grand final of the NSW Country Cup versus Bathurst.
"Unfortunately we went down 2-1 in a game with every aspect of football included. It was a fast, physical game that was brilliant to watch."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: