Fleta Page May 27, 2012
58-year-old Steve Bryant stretches his hamstrings. Photo: Colleen Petch
THEY have an average age of 42, with two players over 50 and four over 40. They claim to be too old to walk properly after a 90-minute game, let alone train, but Capital Football thinks this team should be playing in the ACT's second best league.
With a former top-level English player in Steve Bryant and four other former National Soccer League players, there's no doubt Monaro's team in State League 6 is talented. Too talented for the Masters league.
Last year most of them were playing for Woden and won the State League 2 competition, but when they were told they had to go to State League 1, one step below the Premier League, they rebelled.
''We couldn't play in State League 1, it would be embarrassing,'' Bryant, 58, said. ''Chasing young kids around would nearly kill half of us. We don't train - we're too old - we play on a Saturday, and it takes us until Thursday to walk properly, most of us.''
The team, who want to play together each week in preparation for an annual masters tournament in Queensland, lost several players after the promotion ruling.
Knowing they weren't allowed to re-enter division two, the rest went looking for a new team, and found that the division six team at Monaro had several vacancies.
Bryant accepts dropping four divisions may not be the fairest outcome but says the punishment, being allowed to stay in division 6 but docked 24 competition points, doesn't fit the crime.
''Juventus in the Serie A in Italy were docked 21 points for corruption and match fixing. We're in Canberra in State League 6, and they've deducted 24 points off us, which is basically I think so we can't make the [finals],'' Bryant said of the outcome of an independent tribunal hearing organised by Capital Football.
''You get the federation saying you can't play in State League 6, which is fair, but State League 1 is a ginormous step for everybody, you're playing against young kids, training every week, up and coming lads - it would be too difficult for us and it's duty of care, they wouldn't be able to insure us for enough.
''We've seen what happens to young fit men in the English Premier League, where a boy nearly died on the pitch.''
Capital Football Competition Manager, Alasdair Grocock said the original Woden side's promotion to division one was about maintaining the integrity of the competition,
''You can't have a team running around in a competition who are clearly better than the other nine teams in the competition who are no chance of winning,'' he said.
Grocock said while there is no mandatory promotion and relegation in the competition, ''the criteria set down states that if there are teams that have clearly over-performed or under-performed and there was a position available, teams will be promoted and or relegated accordingly''.
As for the duty of care to the older players, Grocock said: ''I can only base Capital Football's view on results - it's an open age men's competition … it's all based on ability, it's not based on age.''
With 24 points gone, there's no chance of Monaro winning division six, but a 1-0 win over Belconnen United yesterday continued their unbeaten run, with seven wins from seven matches.
''But we've struggled to win the games, it's not as if we've blasted everybody off the pitch,'' Bryant said. ''We meet up on Saturday, find out who's OK and we start with as many players as we have - we started with eight or nine sometimes last year because some of us just can't cope with it.''
In the Premier League yesterday, Belconnen United kept their unbeaten run going with a 1-0 win over Tuggeranong United. David Kemp was the goal scorer, tapping in a cross from Cameron Reinhart in the 56th minute. Reinhart received a chip from the midfield, and looked offside, but the visitors didn't get the call. Belconnen substitute, Zac Maybury, lasted two minutes before being sent off for stomping on Chris Ruiz.