Tomorrow’s PS4 NPL Victoria Grand Final will be extra special for Vice Captain Brad Norton, playing his 100th League match for the club that he joined in November 2011.
Norton told smfc.com.au that the milestone match would be one to remember only if his team got over the line against the Bentleigh Greens. “It’s pretty lucky…it’s a really good feeling to do it (play his 100th game) in the Grand Final but it’ll only be good if we can come away with the win.”
“Not many players anywhere can say they’ve had the chance to play their 100th game in a Grand Final and it’s a credit to the boys that we have made it this far. Lucky we didn’t finish outside the top two, otherwise my 100th game would have been last week!”
Norton has started 34 of SMFC’s 35 games in all competitions this season, in what is possibly his finest season to date at the Lakeside club. Unsurprisingly, the 26 year old identified the games against the Oakleigh Cannons (7 September 2014) and Northcote City (23 August this year) as the most memorable of his 99 League games with SMFC, with the Club celebrating titles after those games.
“There’s probably a couple that stick out. Obviously lifting the trophy here last year (after the 2-2 draw with Oakleigh) was a game that I won’t forget. Likewise with the Northcote game a few weeks ago (3-0 win) and I scored a goal in that game too, which was memorable. After those games, being able to lift the trophy…. it’s not often you get to win Championships and hopefully we get to lift another one on Sunday.”
Speaking about the lead-up to the Grand Final this week, Norton said that he and his teammates were going about business as usual. “This week the mood from the boys has been good, we’re just going about this week the same as any other week. Obviously there’s a little bit of extra excitement with the potential to win a trophy, however we’re just trying to treat it the same way (as any other game) and come Sunday we’ll be up for it, that’s for sure.”
Norton has been part of a defence that has conceded just 44 goals in 52 games over the past two League seasons. Norton hailed the camaraderie of his defensive counterparts, as well as the rest of the squad, as crucial in South Melbourne’s recent successes. “This year all four of us have created a pretty special bond. To keep the lowest ‘goals against’ tally in the League is a real positive.”
“I’ve played with Timmy (Mala) and (Michael) Eagar for the past couple of years and you always know from their side that they’re going to stop a lot of goals coming through. It’s just that rapport, we’ve got it in the change rooms and we’ve got it through the whole team. CT (Chris Taylor) has tried to keep the back four the same for the whole season and it’s helped us to be consistent this year.”
Since Norton joined the Club, South has finished sixth (2012), third (2013), Champions (2014) and Minor Premiers (2015) in the League standings, highlighting improvement every season. Norton acknowledged that whilst the Club is unrecognisable today from when he first joined, he wouldn’t change a thing. “We’ve gone through a couple of different periods in the last four years. The first couple of years, compared to the last couple of years, were completely different.”
“I wouldn’t change any of my time here though. I had a good time with the players from the first two years and the coaches from then as well. Times change however, we’ve moved on and won two Championships so you can’t really complain about that.”
“To get to play in front of all these supporters, and with all the players that have come through, it’s a time that I won’t forget and I have really enjoyed myself so far. This is the club that you want to be at, there’s no doubt about that.”