Mitchell Rangers Soccer Club’s All Abilities team has been crowned state champions for the third year in a row but are kicking goals off the pitch too.
After starting in 2017 with just five players for a seven-a-side competition, the club has now won a championship in each of its three seasons.
Mitchell Rangers Soccer Club All Abilities coach Paul Sirianni said he didn’t worry about results as long as the players were enjoying the game.
“The scores were irrelevant. It was about participation and everyone was having fun. That’s the beauty of it,” he said.
“An opposition player would kick a goal and our players would run up, high-five and congratulate him. That’s what I want to see, that’s sportsmanship, that’s the essence of the sport.”
The scoreboard was so low on the priority list that Sirianni didn’t even realise his team was in contention for the state title in either of the past two seasons until they were handed the flag and medals after the Football Federation Victoria gala day at the end of the season.
After starting with just five players, the team has now grown to 19 registered players and while it was the team’s worst year in terms of wins and losses, it was one of their best.
“It was great because it was challenging and their skill level develops more. The way they pass the ball around now is just beautiful to watch,” Sirianni said.
“They can control the ball, their heads are up and they’re looking where to pass, whereas earlier on it was see ball, kick ball and now they’re reading the play.”
Sirianni said one of the most rewarding things about coaching the team was seeing the growth of his players both on and off the field.
“I’ve got a player who was almost non-verbal. Now, he’ll string sentences together. He’s been captain a few times and he tells the players where to go,” he said.
“They run their heart out, it makes my heart smile when I see the guys training or playing or just congregating among themselves.
“It brings them out and to watch them blossom and come out of their shell and realise they’re part of the team and it’s a good team, it’s just brilliant.”