After a slow start, Orange bounced back in a big way at this week’s McDonald’s Kanga Cup, producing a stunning winning run through the back end of the competition and ultimately claiming the under-16 boys’ shield title.
The Johnny Kuntze-coached suffered a first-up, 4-2 loss to North Sydney United before salvaging a 1-1 draw with the excellently-named Passion of the Cruyff in round two, but from there it was all one-way traffic.
Finding form from round three onward, Orange didn’t drop another game on its way the title and reversed its round one result in Friday morning’s decider, downing North Sydney United 2-1 to seal the championship.
For context the Kanga Cup – always played across a week in July – is the largest junior international tournament in the southern hemisphere, with more than 300 teams competing across nine different age groups at Canberra this year.
Needless to say, the magnitude of the achievement isn’t lost on Kuntze, who actually coached Orange’s under-16 boys’ outfit to a title in 2016 as well.
“It’s an incredible achievement,” an excited Kuntze said, speaking to the Central Western Daily just moments after the full-time whistle was blown.
“I knew what these guys were capable of but we did start slowly, we had to recover from that and I think there was a few nervous guys before the final as well.”
With a 4-5-1 formation in place, Orange took a 1-nil lead into half-time thanks to Aidan Casey’s early goal although Kuntze admitted his side was probably lucky to do so.
“We were in front at half-time but it didn’t really feel like it, I think North Sydney was probably the better side in that first half,” he explained.
“But we focused more on playing positive football in the second half, we moved the ball really well and communicated very well too, that made things a lot easier.”
On the back of that came Oscar Williams’ match-winning, and ultimately title-sealing, goal. He found the back of the net after some beautiful phase play through the middle, about two-thirds of the way through the second period.
The match-winner was one of five goals Williams scored in the tournament, while Casey grabbed seven, Charlie Huggett scored six and Oliver Bayly also found the back of the net five times.
To make it to the final Orange thrashed Gungahlin United 4-nil, all four goals coming in the second half after remaining deadlocked at half-time.
Orange edged out Gungahlin 3-2 in the final regular competition round before that, and also took care of Belwest Foxes (3-1), Marulan (4-2) and Marist Canberra (4-nil) in the group stage.
Kuntze’s side was the only Orange outfit in action at the prestigious tournament this week and, outside the top goal-scorers, also featured stars in Harry Cummins, Myles Palmer, Zac Pavy, Thomas Dews, Thomas Hogben, Joseph Kocanda, Ethan Norcott, Alex Sinclair, Karl Moes, Henry Williams and Cameron Thornberry.