The 2017 West Coast football men’s knock-out cup final way Paroa and Westport Cos compete for a piece of local sporting history. The current trophy is 95 years old and must be one of the oldest sporting trophies in the country. It was first won by Blackball in 1922.
Paroa and Westport Cost have been the top two teams in the league, and though Paroa have been the dominant team so far this season, they did recently fall their first and only defeat of the season against Westport, suggesting this tie could go either way. However, Westport knew they had to have the same level of performance in this game in order to prevent Paroa from winning their first knock-out cup since 2005.
Paroa started the game playing into the strong wind, so the emphasis was on them to see if they could not only keep Westport goalless, but get one or two of their own to give themselves a big advantage in the second half.
Paroa did start the stronger of the two teams, and Grant Smith in the Westport defence was busy making tackles right away. Both teams took a while to settle and a lot of the early play was rushed and with little space, but Marin McDonald and Harvey Rubbo, as they have done all season in the centre of the Paroa midfield, utilised what space they could find before Rubbo put in an early testing cross into the Westport box. Rubbo continued to use the ball well and played some smart balls into the wind to give Matt Wakeford a few runs at the Westport defence.
Westport’s first real chance came after the Niki Emery in the Paroa goal inadvertently carried the ball outside the box while taking a kick out. The resulting free kick was well hit by David Evans, but deflected off another Westport player and flew just over the bar. Westport struggled to take advantage of the wind, with many through balls being over hit and running right to Emery or over the end line. Paroa’s next chance came after a long free kick held up in the wind before McDonald got a head to it. The wind took the speed out of the ball, making it difficult for McDonald to put any force onto it and his header landed in Ben Pratt, the Westport keeper’s arms. Rubbo then had another free kick that forced Pratt to dive at the feet of the onrushing Paroa forwards, to claim the ball.
Westport’s defence had an obvious game plan to deal with the passing of Paroa, with Jake Neaves sweeping deep behind Grant in the centre of defence. However, no tactics would have prevented Matt Wakeford’s speed getting down the right, past the line of defence before crossing in for Rob Orr. The shot was on target, but the Pratt got just enough of a hand to the shot to put the ball past the outside of the post. Shortly after, in a repeat of the previous attack, Wakeford again charged down the right but this time Orr just couldn’t get onto his cross. Wakeford should have had a chance of his own just after, but swiped at a volley and couldn’t get the ball on target.
Westport had another opportunity to score, when Smith got his head to a corner ball but couldn’t find the target. A quick free kick from Orr then found McDonald, but again his volley couldn’t find the target. Orr found the target himself, after a goalmouth scramble, and this time he was able to sweep the ball high into the net to open the scoring. Another scramble ensued in the Westport box after Caleb Anderson got another cross in, but this time Orr’s shot was saved and held by the keeper. Two minutes before half time, Orr found himself with the ball in a bit of space just inside the Westport half. Orr carried the ball, beat a few tackles and with a left foot finish gave Paroa their second of the game.
Westport made a couple of changes at half time, including bringing on their top goal scorer Atila Oliveira. Oliveira was immediately in the action, drawing a foul and free kick just outside the box after a run down the left wing. The resulting free kick forced Emery into a double save after the ball spilled to Smith. A few minutes later, an identical free kick from Oliveira, from the same spot, again forced Emery into a save and the rebounded ball fell once again to Smith, only for the ball to be put wide this time. With a considerable amount of time left in the game, a goal from either of these chances would have made a significant change to the dynamics of the game and brought Westport right back into it. They were made to pay shortly after, when the Westport defence failed to deal with a long throw and Matt Wakeford earned a deserved goal by rifling the ball into the net for 3-0. Shortly after, it was four, after Rubbo once again found Orr in the box, this time from a corner, and Orr’s header found the net to claim his hat-trick.
Westport did have their chances, and credit to them for continuing to attack despite the score line. They were finally rewarded after a chipped through ball put the Paroa defence under pressure and Oliveira was taken down just inside the box to win a penalty. Oliveira got straight up and sent the penalty into the bottom corner.
The wind played a big factor in Paroa’s fifth goal, after a high and long free kick from Clint Blanch was misjudged by the Westport keeper, who could only get a hand to the ball before it landed in the net. Neaves then failed to control a through ball in the Westport defence and Wakeford again showed his speed to latch on to the free ball before firing across the keeper into the far corner for six. Westport got a consolation second goal after Oliveira crossed into the box, the ball being flicked on before Ravi Prasad managed to head it into the goal.