JAFFAS 2023 Champions
Lambton Jaffas claimed their fourth NNSW NPLM championship at Edgeworth’s Jack McLaughlan Oval tonight with a thrilling 2-1 victory against Broadmeadow Magic in front of a crowd of over 2000 people.
The Jaffas left it late and for the second year in a row, it was Kale Bradbery who was the match-winner.
The game was 92 minutes old and locked at 1-1 when Bradbery picked up the ball in the Magic box after it was lumped forward by Matt Hoole, and he cut inside and beat Broadmeadow goalkeeper Jack Pandel at his near stick as the celebrations began.
The 29-year-old striker has now played in five grand finals with both Lambton and Broadmeadow, winning four of them and scoring in the most recent three. He was ecstatic at full-time and said that winning another grand final alongside a group of teammates who mean everything to him was special.
“It’s amazing,” Bradbery said.
“Especially considering a few weeks ago I didn’t know if I’d be playing finals. It’s bittersweet to score the winner.
“Honestly, my legs were buggered, so when I looked at the clock and it was the 85th minute, I said to myself if I get half a chance I’m shooting, because I can’t go through extra time.
“We’ve got such a tight-knit group here and the boys are a joy to play with. To win the grand final last year and then to do what we’ve done this year, doing the double, it’s just so good. Hopefully, we can keep playing together for years to come.”
Bradbery’s winner was the third goal of the game after Reece Papas had opened the scoring with a stunning strike in the 52nd minute before Jayden Stewardson equalised from the penalty spot for Broadmeadow five minutes later.
There were 12 minutes played in the decider before either goalkeeper was really tested, and it was Lambton’s Ben Kennedy who was called upon to make a diving save to deny a powerful Bailey Wells long-range free kick.
All 22 players produced some classy football during the opening 25 minutes to get through the opposition lines, but both defences were scrambling well and all that both sides really lacked was a killer final pass.
Lambton created two big chances in quick succession in the 28th minute but a Matt Hoole shot was saved comfortably by Magic goalkeeper Jack Pandel before a deflected Papas strike went just wide.
Magic frontman Stewardson had the perfect chance to open the scoring in the 34th minute when he rose highest to meet an in-swinging corner kick but headed wide from a couple of yards out.
The score was still locked at 0-0 at half-time, and while it certainly wasn’t a lacklustre opening 45 minutes, the game finally came to life early in the second stanza as both sides found the back of the net and brought the crowd to their feet.
Lambton struck first in the 52nd minute when Papas put away one of the greatest NPL Men’s NNSW grand final goals that has ever hit the back of a net when he fired a shot from long range that struck the underside of the crossbar and rebounded back up into the roof of the net.
Stewardson then locked the score up at 1-1 in the 57th minute when he converted from the penalty spot after Jaffas goalkeeper Ben Kennedy fouled Dominik Brymora as they contested a crossed free kick.
Jarred Baker was introduced off the bench for Magic in the 62nd minute and he almost made an immediate impact when he got himself one-on-one with Matt Hoole in the 18-yard box and beat him inside before hitting the side-netting with his strike.
Magic had a brilliant chance to hit the lead in the 87th minute when Wells released Baker down the left edge and he cut the ball back to Will Ingram, but the left back’s shot was down the middle and was saved by Kennedy.
The score was still 1-1 when the fourth official held the board up to announce five added minutes but Bradbery broke Magic's hearts two minutes later when he drove home the winner.
The grand final victory sees the Jaffas go back-to-back for the first time in the club’s history while they also completed their maiden premiership championship double.
Jaffas coach David Tanchevski said he could not have been any prouder of what the club or the playing group have achieved in 2023.
“We are over the moon and I thought that the boys played really well tonight,” Tanchevski said.
“We felt a bit hard done by with the penalty we conceded, and the boys could have dropped their heads but they dug in deep and played to the final whistle, and they got the winner to get the victory that I thought we deserved.
“I don’t know if Magic changed their game plan a little bit, but they played a little bit longer it seemed to me, and their football wasn’t as good as what it was in the semi-final. I thought that they outplayed us for big patches in the semi-final, but I thought we had control of the game tonight.
“It’s an amazing group of guys here. We had seven people turned over from the first grade squad last year, but we had a little core of players that have the biggest heart and invited all the new boys in and they gelled well together. The first half of the season was a bit tough as we learned to play together, but in the second half, it came together, this is our 12th game undefeated. It just shows the character of the squad, and I think the next few years are pretty exciting at the club.”
Tanchevski, who won his third top-grade premiership as a Lambton coach tonight, said there was no place like the Jaffas.
“I’ve coached at a couple of other NPL clubs and there’s no place like Jaffas. To me, it’s the best club in the competition, and the people who run it are beautiful people. This feels like home and I can’t imagine coaching anywhere else,” Tanchevski said.
Tanchevski was full of praise for Bradbery, who he described as a big game player. The gaffer also commended the 2023 NNSW NPLM player of the grand final Riley McNaughton, who he said had now played four grand finals in four different positions for Lambton and is always outstanding wherever he is asked to line up on the pitch.
The loss was heart-breaking for Broadmeadow Magic’s coach and club legend John Bennis, but he declared that his players had bright futures ahead.
“I’m shattered. I just feel empty at the moment,” Bennis said.
“I don’t think I really have a message that I can give the boys straight away. You have to just feel it and learn from it.
“It’s just super disappointing to concede in the 92nd minute. It’s a tough one and something we spoke about.
“We had our moments too though. It was an even contest in the end and probably could have gone either way. Both teams had periods in the game, but for us, it wasn’t to be.
“I’m super proud of these boys. Fantastic players and fantastic people. They are good learners and they all have a very bright future ahead. If this year is anything to go by, with the right guidance, they should go on to make their own dynasty.”
Bennis announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down from the role at the conclusion of this season and he said it was an honour to be the head coach of a club that he not only played for but also captained.