The ride has been wonderful. The opening chapter of the New Wave Warriors’ story has been a joy. The vibrancy of new faces and the delights of unscripted success has new-look Catalina Street buzzing. A rich blend of new and old has exceeded every expectation since the deceptively listless season opener against Hellas.
For this exciting new-breed the 2021 season – when and if it re-opens – remains wide open. But if Heidelberg United is to clinch a fourth consecutive premiership or go deep into the finals I reckon the three not-so-secret weapons in the quest are veterans Sean Ellis, skipper Reuben Way and mister perpetual motion, Adrian Zahra.
The subtle finger pointing predictably began after a disappointingly tepid end to the opening 13 rounds of the season. The inevitable easy targets are the aged 30-plus veterans, but the truly great players are an exception to any such nonsense and Ellis, Way and Zahra are just that; great. Immortals amongst the ranks of Alexander champions down the years.
The great players carve careers encompassing a seamless transitional journey. The move from reckless young gun involves developing experience and technique, followed by an understanding of leadership and appreciation of inspiration and motivation. As age starts to drain the springs of ankles and knees and that extra half step edge in pace is no longer a primary weapon, the greats become as much craftsmen as genius.
Ellis, Way and Zahra are great footballers because they are great craftsmen. They know when and where to be and what to do when they get there. They win games because they know the game and all its textures, twists and emotional toils.
Craft is Adrian Zahra getting where the ball is most likely to be after it cannons around wildly and knowing how to hold your ground under enormous physical pressure. Craft is Zahra knowing when to dart and dash and deliver a perfect pass in seemingly the one seamless movement.
Craft is Ellis standing as a lone Warrior, hands on hips, evaluating the terrain and knowing most assuredly that – all going to plan – he can nail a set piece regardless of distance or angle. Or drop a ball exactly where both goalkeeper and defenders least want it dropped. Craft is Ellis making a frantic game seemingly slow around him as he glides and dances his way through traffic.
And craft is Reuben Way appreciating and growing into the roles and responsibilities of captaincy whilst maintaining the simmering, edgy recklessness of a renegade. He dispenses aggression and discretion prudently, as required. Craft is knowing Way can toast an opposition and turn a game in a matter of seconds. Craft is Reuben’s confidence even when the blowtorch is applied.
The enforced break will do each of the trio the world of good. Zahra carried the youngsters early doors and his extraordinary all-day running game will enjoy the rest. Likewise Ellis, who has been man-handled and banged about more often than usual this season and he’s had to work harder to find the ball in a transitional season in which delivery to him has fallen away. And for skipper Reuben, who has been “a couple of weeks away” for a while now, should be cherry ripe to go by the time we’ve got the 2021 season back on track.
You get a big second half of the season from this trio and the Warriors will be turning the heat up to scorch again into the business end of 2021.