Last Monday’s blockbuster clash between Central Coast and Macarthur FC introduced Mariners fans to a new hero. His name is Matt Hatch.
In sporting films the audience usually views the action through a rookie’s eyes. From the sidelines Hatch would have experienced an emotional build-up to the game, waiting to be utilised as a late substitute.
That night was important to the community. Players were dressed in bright colours, helping celebrate ‘pink round’ in support of Cancer Council NSW, before the first whistle was blown.
Hatch took note of Oliver Bozanic. The skipper was gently ushering dignitaries around the field. Over $25,000 had successfully been raised for cancer research.
Smiling for the flashing cameras, Bozanic felt comfortable. Here was a man familiar with the media, having played in the 2013 A-League grand final.
A talisman maybe? That year the Mariners won the championship, though it was long ago now.
Bozanic’s luminous armband gleamed, complementing the captain’s vivid shirt. A fortuitous kit, commentators mentioned, based on the classic Mariners 2013 design.
Hatch smiled to himself. The former ball boy had been around the community club for years, learning their history.
He gazed at the scoreboard. Standing a few metres away was Mariners coach Alen Stajcic. The two men applauded the electronic countdown.
Beyond Stajcic, further down the field, Ante Milicic stood strong, arms firmly crossed. The burly Macarthur boss was not about to lose twice to the Mariners. Game on.
It was International Women’s Day, and the significance was not lost on the two master coaches, having formally been in charge of the Matildas at different times.
When the game commenced Hatch observed Macathur’s multiple passes, high possession and composed tactics.
Under Milicic’s firm direction cast-iron instructions were bellowed to the Bulls. Critics had mentioned the team exceeding all A-League expectations. They were currently second on the table and were the pride of Campbelltown.
Suddenly the Mariners counterattacked. A senior player took one look at the goals and fired. 1-0 to Central Coast. The surname printed on the back of the scorer’s shirt spelt Simon.
With a raised celebratory arm Matt Simon marked the occasion with a shaka hand wave. He briefly nodded in Hatch’s direction, acknowledging his teammates on the sideline.
The two Matts grinned in unison, separated by the pitch. Would the baton of responsibility finally be passed from one generation to the other? Surely Hatch would make his A-League debut tonight.
With the game winding down after 80 minutes Stajcic gave instructions to the young competitor. A challenge was set.
As a substitute Hatch was being gifted limited time. The job, Stajcic advised, had to be done quickly. His impact on the contest had to be rapid.
It took 25 seconds.
Cue the opening titles. Matt Hatch: fastest debut goal in A-League history.