It was the last game of the season in the notoriously annoying, expensive and empty ANZ stadium.
But ya know what, for one last night, I’d say it was bittersweet, in a way…
We have had great memories at this stadium, even though the last 3 seasons have been a thorn in our sides. Remember that 1 derby we won 3 seasons ago? Santalab’s famous goal against Vukovic and an almost “unbeaten” and unstoppable Sydney FC…….and that’s about it, to be honest…but that 1 game has kept me on a high for the last 3 years.
What a hell of a drug!
But tonight it ends with another loss to finish off the season. The Melbourne Victory travel to Sydney to cement 3 more points before they enter the finals stages, while our hometown red and black, cement 8th place.
SO WHY THE HELL NOT ATTEND TO WITNESS THE ENTIRE F*CKARY THAT UNFOLDS FOR ONE LAST TIME!?
My brother, his 3 best mates and I, all meet up before the match to reminisce over the last season. We then drag our asses to the train station, hop on, switch trains to link up with the Sydney Olympic Park trainline for the last time, walking into a freezing cold, below 12 degrees, stadium and sit on half way as the game kicks off.
I, am quick to have a panic attack as I come to realise a famous Spaniard is missing from the team sheet. Oriel Riera, not on the starting 11, nor the sub bench. And 90% of the reason for my attendance tonight was to wish him well and say goodbye.
I soon find out that our fave striker is still in the stadium, watching his boys from afar, with a little bit of an injury. Horrible timing and a sad moment as he is unable to play his last game for the club.
Moving forward to speak about the actual game rather than my adventures (which is probably more entertaining), ladies and gentlemen, there is really nothing much to talk about…other than that SICK HEADER BY TOIVENEN!
A deadly leap, followed by one hell of a header to put the Victory in the lead, on the 22nd minute. I can’t even be angry, man, it was that good. I CAN’T BE ANGRY AT THAT CLASS…
1. Because I was so done, I was too busy looking at my phone and didn’t see it until replay.
2. We suck, I came to terms with that 15 games ago.
But after that goal, I start to pay attention a little more because even though I am quite done, it is still my dAmN jOb to write this, YOU are reading….you’ve probably stopped reading by now but whoever is still with me, bless ya.
Fast forwarding to the second half, we kick off and within seconds, Baena rams into Mitchell Duke, dazing the poor guy and knocking his shoulder almost CLEAR PUT OF HIS SOCKET. That’s all we bloody needed, a dislocation on one of our best recent signings. Feckin fabulous! But with a few good seconds and a quick look by the medical team, by god, he’s back up and running.
We have a few chances on target, breaks for the ball, moments where the Victory defense is weak and we could have caused some serious damage. Draw, maybe even win by one damn lousy goal. But like we have been all season, our actions are delayed and hesitant… OR TOO HARD OF A HIT, NOT EVEN THE FLASH COULD GET TO THE BALL BEFORE IT GOES OUT.
But towards the last 20 minutes, we begin to warm up in the cold West Sydney weather, give the Vuck a little more of a fight. But sadly, it ended just as predicted, with no win and no points.
The final whistle echoes through the arena, a giant weight is lifted off of all our shoulders. It’s finally over… my god, IS THIS REAL LIFE!? IS THE NIGHTMARE DONE WITH!?
My brother and I turn to eachother as we receive a message from Oriol, a message that says he will meet us on the pitch to say goodbye, with the rest of the team. Our hearts heavy once again…
In the short 2 seasons, it has been an honour to watch him play, to represent my home, the colours and crest of my city. And in that time, to be blessed enough to become a friend…and a mentor to my younger brother, as he works his way to become a professional player.
As we gather around the fence line, stand as we listen to Mark Bridges last farewell for his retirement, the entire team walks past, a usual Hi – 5 and “cya next season” …
And at the far end of the line, is Ori, with a bittersweet smile as he signs kits and balls, takes pictures, suited up in all black and the WSW red tie, taking his time with each fan.
And then he gets to my brother and I… a last hug and talk about the season, the club, family and future… we thank him for everything. Everything he did for the club, for TLL for my brother and I. For his passion and respect, and the way he treated us like friends and family, rather than just another fan.
We say our last farewell, making a promise to support him from across the oceans, take one last picture with my brother as he continues to make his way around the crowd, not caring that his team are well gone inton the change rooms and on their way home.
My brother and I take another look at eachother, tearing up but with a smile…because we have gained something more rare than any photo or autograph…we have gained a friendship.
Ori, thank you for choosing Australia, for choosing the Wanderers, and for allowing a young Unique Rookie Journalist who is still growing and learning, a simple shot to tell your story and share you love for this beautiful game.
Here is to the Western Sydney Wanderers and the new season to come, in our original stomping ground of Parramatta…
Here is to better days.
By Christina Trajceska