OPINION: High-level clash shows what Rocky's missing
BY ADAM WRATTEN
The Mackay-based Magpies Crusaders scored a 3-1 win against the newly formed Wide Bay Buccaneers in an early pre-season clash at Rockhampton's Jardine Park on Saturday night.
The game provided the highly credentialed new coach of the Mackay team, former Real Madrid youth mentor Carlos Garcia Alejos, a look at his players off the training field.
The Buccaneers rarely looked like hurting Mackay and their goal came early in the second half from an individual error.
Given this was the Wide Bay outfit's first outing as a club and they were taking on a team that will play in the higher-tiered NPL rather than the QPL, I'm sure the Buccaneers will take plenty of positives from the game - if nothing else fitness, as many of the players were on the field for the major part of the clash.
It would be unfair to read too much into a first trial game played in the late afternoon/early evening of a hot summer day in Rockhampton.
Mackay, particularly in the first half when their stronger players were on the field, looked the more composed and structured side and they were unlucky not to have taken a bigger lead than 2-0 into the break after several good interchanges involving strikers Michael Lyall and Kyle Markham in the attacking third opened up the Wide Bay defence.
With Mackay making a raft of changes at half-time, the second half was a scrappier affair with neither team really stamping their authority on the match.
It appears both sides will have their work cut out to challenge the competition's big guns if they're to enjoy first-season success.
Central Queensland's top teams, Capricorn Coast, Frenchville and Clinton, would have given both sides a strong contest and if I was a betting man my money would be on the local sides against Wide Bay.
The night did provide a flashback to watching Rockhampton's premier players competing at a higher level at this same venue less than a decade ago.
It's a shame the Capricorn Cougars (which later evolved into the CQ Energy) are no longer.
No doubt there were many factors for the demise, but I can't help but think the primary one was financial. Certainly for a number of years the team was competitive.
Given the current dynamics of the sport in this region, it's hard to see a Rockhampton-based club emerging any time soon and questions would need to be answered about the best model to achieve this.
The regions, including Rockhampton, are unfairly hamstrung by the game's governing bodies in Australia and Queensland who have never really been fair dinkum about getting the environment right for grass-roots success.
The sheer size of the state means the officials need to look at ways to deliver an even playing field so emerging players in our region have the same opportunities as those in Brisbane and other capital cities.
That other sports, such as rugby league, seem able to do this without the huge fees that soccer players pay, demonstrates it is possible.
Far too much player registration money goes to the higher levels of soccer, rather than the grassroots.
It will be interesting to see how the Mackay team goes, given the comparable stop-start experiences that region has experienced when fielding a team at the state level.
If it goes well, then maybe Frenchville will follow suit in the years to come.
Talking to Mackay officials, the club has a longer term vision and it will only be in a few years' time that it can be determined if the venture has been a success.
It will cost a lot of money to run a team for five years.
For young players in our region, the situation remains the same - if they want to move forward, Brisbane and the other major cities are the places to test themselves.
SOUTHSIDE REIGNS IN CURTAIN-RAISER
A YIAANI KONDILIS hat-trick fired Southside United to a comfortable 6-0 victory against the Wide Bay Buccaneers under-20 side at Jardine Park on Saturday.
Played on a hot afternoon, the Rockhampton-based club was too strong for the young Bundaberg outfit.
Kondilis was the pick of the players on the park.