EREA National Football Tournament

EREA Soccer Tournament, Brisbane April 13-17 2021 

Written by: Zac Piesse

Old Virgilian (2011) and current staff member at St Virgil's College.

The Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) National Soccer Tournament is a prestigious soccer competition that is held annually at different EREA schools across the nation. St Virgil’s has had a rich history competing in this tournament, winning four out of the last six tournaments. Sadly, there was no tournament last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however thankfully St Virgil’s were able to participate in 2021 with the talented squad harbouring aspirations of returning from Brisbane with a gold medal. The competition was hosted by St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Brisbane, with the majority of teams coming from Queensland and NSW EREA schools.  

The group of sixteen Year 9 and 10 students were excited to represent the College on the amazing new playing fields of Nudgee. Nudgee have recently spent in excess of $12 million to renovate their playing fields the result being facilities the envy of not only schools but professional level soccer programmes. In preparation for the tour, the boys had committed to a weekly squad training session as well as strategy sessions with team coach Mr Michael Moschogianis. They also played a practice match against a South Hobart academy team coming away with a comprehensive victory to boost confidence leading into the trip. Most of the boys in the squad represent various NPL clubs around the south of Tasmania so were very keen to pit their skills against talented players from other states and EREA programmes.

The sense of excitement was palpable as the boys arrived at the airport. There was still a feeling of disbelief amongst the team as only two weeks prior it looked highly unlikely that the tour would proceed. The classification of Brisbane as a Covid Red Zone in March had certainly put the tournament in jeopardy but thankfully the five-day lockdown imposed by the Queensland government did its job, enabling the group to travel to Brisbane to play, albeit with facemasks and lots of hand washing! 

The boys were greeted by stunning weather upon arrival in Brisbane and after baggage and bus collection, made their way to their home for the next four days, the boarding houses of Nudgee College. During school time this is the home for 300 boys from Year 5 to 12, boys living within dormitories that cater for up to 40 students. After a hearty boarding house meal the team were made aware of what faced them should they wish to contest the gold medal play-off game on Friday – four pool games, a semi- final and hopefully a final on the 3rd and final day of matches. This was a somewhat daunting task given the competition and the heat of the Brisbane sun! 

St Virgil’s commenced their first day with a string of positive results against Gregory Terrace 2, winning 4-0 and also against St James’ College 7-0. The poise of players in front of goal was commendable, albeit the pressure offered by our opponents was limited. Charlie Banks pocketed three goals across the two games as did powerful winger Thomas Kershbaum. The St Virgil’s defence was resolute seldom looking in danger of conceding any goals. Coach Michael Moschogianis was very impressed with the way that the boys played on the first day of matches, particularly given the unknown nature of our opponents. 

Any chances of getting too comfortable were quickly wrestled away by the tenacious defence of St Laurence’s College, Brisbane. Despite controlling most of the play goals were extremely difficult to find on Day 2 of competition. This would be a theme for the remainder of the tournament. 

SVC’s clean sheet in Rounds 1 to 3 was smashed in a devastating five-minute period by St Patrick’s College, Shornecliffe. Two simple defensive errors handed St Pat’s the early ascendency, their second goal coming from an impressive 30 metre volley by their centre back. For the remainder of the game SVC controlled possession but were unable to make dent on the scoreboard. Charlie Banks pinched a goal with a cheeky tap in following a fumble from the St Pat’s goalkeeper but it wasn’t enough, Team SVC going down 1-2. Despite the heroics of Captain Will Simaan and the intensity of Jonte Banks and Ashton Hadfield on the ball the team were left to lament ‘one that got away’. This consigned the team to second in Pool B, meaning that we would play the winner of Pool A in the semi-final for place in the final. 

After an enjoyable afternoon at Inflatable World in Southbank, the boys were rested and ready for a huge final day of competition. They knew that it was going to be a tough encounter against Gregory Terrace 1. In a repeat of the Day 2 script, a simple defensive error enabled Gregory Terrace to score early, leaving SVC to chase the game. Despite dominating general play the team could not find the back of the net coming agonisingly close on several occasions, including three balls hitting the crossbar. Eventually our offensive pressure paid off with goal sneak Charlie Banks seizing on a poor piece of defence by Terrace. 

Poor defence would again cost the team, sadly in the next stanza of play. Failure to clear the ball ended in a desperate tackle which resulted in a penalty being awarded to Terrace which their striker casually buried in the back of the net. Just as it was looking like SVC’s dream was about to extinguished, enter Golden Boot contender Thomas Kerschbaum! Seizing on a loose ball, Thomas employed his powerful left boot to hammer the ball into the back of the net, giving the keeper no chance to even move. Within 60 seconds the referee blew his whistle and motioned to both teams to head to the northern end of the ground for a penalty shoot-out. The tension was almost overwhelming and this perhaps affected our first penalty taker who fired the ball into the goal keeper. Terrace to their immense credit remained calm and collected clinically putting the ball in the back on the net, ultimately winning the shootout 4-3. 

This left the boys in 3rd position, the disappointment heightened by staying on to watch a lacklustre final, knowing that with a bit more poise in defence and attack, the gold medal could have been conceivably returning to the Apple isle! However it is important to note that the boys were inspirational in their quest for gold and the result is only one measure of the success of the tour. The boys were wonderful ambassadors for the College and benefitted greatly from deepening friendships with team-mates whilst creating many special memories. In addition to the soccer matches, the team also visited Top Golf on the Gold Coast, went ten pin bowling, swam and dined at South Bank and shopped at the Airport DFO. 

The effort of the boys was commendable and was widely acclaimed by visiting parents and opposition coaches. All boys should be extremely proud of their efforts and should take great heart in the quality of their performances on a National stage. With several Year 9 boys already committing to going one step further in 2022, we eagerly look forward to returning to Nudgee next year to continue our tradition of excellence in this prestigious EREA tournament.