After a rough run to the grand final, Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich was still confident his side could beat the defensive might of Edgeworth on the wide open spaces of a pitch-perfect McDonald Jones Stadium.
They just had to “flick the switch”. With John Majurovski, Kale Bradbery and James Virgili the spark, Broadmeadow did just that as they rebounded from four losses in five games to win 3-0 on Saturday night.
Magic had scored just three goals, all in the opening half of their first leg semi-final win over Maitland, and conceded 11 in five games, including a 4-0 FFA Cup loss to Bentleigh, leading into the decider. But with Damian Zane’s Eagles headed for a fourth consecutive premiership, Magic’s focus had long been on their grand plan.
“We went weeks on end playing five at the back, defensive counter-attack and it got us to where we needed to be,” Zadkovich said. “We got on a good pitch and we flicked the switch.
“I think we’ve got the best players in the league. Edgeworth have been the best side consistently over 20 rounds, but we showed that on our day, we’re better.
“Credit to them for getting here again. They’re a fantastic club and Zaney has done a great job with his boys. They’re really building something at Edgy, but so are we.”
In front of 3722 fans, Magic threatened from the start. Bradbery had a shot smothered at close range in the 12th minute but Edgeworth then had their best chance when Paul Bitz made a diving save off a free kick.
Man of the match Majurovski hit the woodwork with a header in the 19th minute but he made no mistake with another in the 25th off a James Virgili cross.
Majurovski was involved again when Magic made it 2-0 in the 38th. Mitch Oxborrow hit the cross and Majurovski’s touch went in off Eagles defender Josh Rose.
From there, it was always a long road back for the Eagles. Daniel McBreen, 41, came on the 66th minute after arriving home on an early morning flight following a stint as assistant coach of Guam, but not even the big-game specialist could turn the tide. Injuries to Dom Bizzarri and Tyson Jackson also hurt the Eagles’ cause. Rose was across the face of goal with a shot in the 79th but that was the closest they came.
Bradbery started celebrations in the 93rd minute with a quality left-foot strike from the top of the 18-yard box.
Edgeworth conceded just 16 goals en route to an 11-point win in the premiership but it was a below-par effort at the back that proved decisive in the grand final. Although disappointed, coach Damian Zane was proud of his side’s season, especially given they lost six players from last year's grand final loss to Lambton Jaffas.
“We didn’t defend well,” Zane said. “But we’ve defended well all year so you are not going to turn on them now and blame them, but it was uncharacteristic from us.
“There were a few chances at both ends before that. Just balls sitting there, and if you are hungry enough, you are there. But to their credit, we didn’t find a solution to how they were pressing us.”
“It was disappointing, but it’s sort of to be expected.
“There were a lot of young boys out there and I think nerves played a part, and a few of our key players were probably not at their best but I’m not going to turn on them. They’ve been massive all year.
“We were finishing stronger and we knew we would, but we just gave ourselves too much to do.
“But I’m proud of the boys and what they’ve done. No one expected us to do what we’ve done. No one expected us to be here.
Zadkovich said the loss of defender Jon Griffiths to suspension and the chance to send out the retiring Shane Paul with a win were the “catalyst for us to be better”.
“A lot of guys have been begging us to play with width, but we still scored the most goals in the competition, and then when we got on the big stage, a big pitch, a pitch that suited us, we went back to playing nice and wide, creating pockets for Ox [Mitch Oxborrow] and Cody [Carroll], and they were excellent.
“All credit to the boys, they executed the game plan perfectly.
”It’s been a great year. There’s a lot of good people behind the scenes at our club who make it really special. A lot who chip in and do the hard work.
“I’m really stoked for my boys and for those people involved in the club. That’s why we worked so hard during the year.”
With centre-back Griffiths suspended, Magic opted for an attacking replacement. They started midfielder Carroll, moved Luke Virgili in to centre-back and Paul to left-back. The match was Paul’s last for Magic and his third grand final win in four appearances for the club.
Edgeworth moved Bizzarri to left-back to mark James Virgili, Rose in to centre-back and Pat Wheeler forward to screen the back four. The Eagles also opted for forward Will Bower over Jose Atayde.
In a touching tribute before kick-off on the pitch, the two sides presented a West Wallsend No.9 jersey, which they both signed, to the family of 19-year-old Bluebells player Jaryd Hayter, who died last week following a workplace accident.
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