A DRAMATIC late equaliser from Tony Sergi secured Hanwood FC an unlikely 1-1 draw with reigning NSW Premier League champions Marconi in Saturday’s friendly match.
With only a few minutes left on the clock, super sub Sergi became the man of the moment as he tucked away a loose ball from close range to erase Marconi’s 1-0 advantage.
The opportunity was crafted by Jake Aramini, who sent in a cross from the right that deflected off a Stallions defender and fell fortuitously into Sergi’s lap.
“It just rolled to me, I let it go across my body and I smacked it, bottom corner.
“I’m never going to forget that in my life,” an ecstatic Sergi said after the final whistle.
His goal helped shatter predictions of another bloodbath like last year’s 9-0 pre-season flogging at the hands of Manly United, with Hanwood more than deserving of a share of the spoils after a disciplined and committed performance.
It took Marconi more than half an hour to hit the back of the net, when influential captain Nahuel Arrate rocketed his shot into the top corner.
The Stallions’ superior quality and technique was obvious from the very start of the match with only poor finishing stopping them from registering a comfortable win.
The four-time national champions hit the woodwork twice and were continuously thwarted by Hanwood goalkeeper Jayden Woodbridge, who kept his side in the game with some terrific saves.
“The boys were excellent today. I just told them to work hard and enjoy yourselves, and they played with a smile on their faces,” said the injured Joey Schirripa, who coached Hanwood in place of the absent Anthony Agresta.
The home side was also missing regular first-grade players Jonathan Favero, Michael Bresolin, Joseph Gioia and Daniel Drascovic.
But the decision to send captain Jason Bertacco into defence alongside Daniel Quarisa paid dividends, with the pair stamping out numerous Marconi attacks throughout the game.
“You could see the class in Marconi today, when they did put the ball down and move it around,” Schirripa said.
“The difference with Manly last year was that they a good two and a half months of pre-season before coming to Griffith. These guys have only had two or three weeks.
“Credit to our boys, we stuck it to them and kept the pressure up.”
Hanwood trio Michael Cirillo, Patrick Zirilli and Daniel Agresta were sent across to Marconi for the last 30 minutes and finished the game up front together for the visitors.
“They loved it. And they did well - they nearly won it for them. I think maybe my instructions didn’t go through well enough,” Schirripa laughed.
Marconi coach Jean-Paul de Marigny paid tribute to Hanwood for giving his men exactly the pre-season workout they had come to Griffith for.
“They were upbeat and showed a lot of energy. It made our guys work hard,” he said.
“Our first half-hour was a little bit sluggish, our ball movement and decision making was way too slow.
“But the tempo really improved after that so the whole exercise was excellent for us.”
Hanwood will also get plenty out of the experience, Schirripa said.
“This is a bit of a building block for us now. It’s brilliant that we’ve got these young boys who are desperate just to have a kick at this time of year,” he said.
“Jake Aramini set up that goal for Tony Sergi and that’s the sort of stuff you look for from your young kids, because they’re going to be in the shop window come February or March.”