For someone who had just coached a team to a grand final, Greg Bartlett was surprisingly frustrated.
Tamworth FC had delivered a near-faultless display in beating East Armidale 5-1, to make their first grand final since 2013 and stay unbeaten for the season, and Bartlett wanted the football community to give his side more respect.
He demanded the same thing before Tamworth FC beat the competition’s long-reigning dominant side, OVA, in a final-round clash last week.
Post-match at Johnson Field after Saturday’s major semi-final, Bartlett was even more indignant: “There's been comments made all during the season that we’re not the best team in the comp.
And I don’t know what we have to do to show people that we are the best team in the comp, because I believe we’re the best team by far.
It would be hard to argue against that. East Armidale finished second on the ladder, and Tamworth FC has scored 15 goals and conceded three in their four wins over Easts this season.
Easts’ sole goal on Saturday came from a penalty just before fulltime. Bartlett agreed that they didn't have a shot on goal prior to that.
Potent offence and stingy defence have been the minor premiers’ hallmarks in 2018, and they have now scored 58 goals and conceded 15 in 19 matches.
If Easts beat Demon Knights in the preliminary final next Saturday to advance to the grand final, it would be hard to imagine them defeating Tamworth FC.
Bartlett also took aim at Easts coach Mark Gwynne for labelling Easts striker, 2018 golden boot winner Brent Pedlow, “the best player in the comp by a long way”.
“Brent Pedlow’s a very good player but I reckon I’ve got four or five who are better players than him,” Bartlett said. “And I’ve got a better team.”
Tamworth FC scored early on Saturday, when midfielder Chris Hughes found the back of the net with the goal of the match – a beautifully struck volley from about 30 metres out in front of goal.
Bartlett said Hughes was “probably” his best player on the day.
“Chris came back to the club this year … he’s just got better and better [throughout the season], and you just couldn’t ask for a better team man.”
Hayden Davidson, whom Bartlett labelled his “Mr Fix It Man”, scored FC’s second goal, to give them a 2-0 halftime lead.
FC’s three second-half goals came from Josh Bartlett, Hamish Migheli and Ryan Davidson. Migheli’s goal was the pick of them, with the right fullback finding the bottom left-hand corner of the goal via a long-range shot.
BJ Kliendienst scored Easts’ goal.
Bartlett said he “couldn’t be prouder” of his side.
He is now one win away from steering Tamworth FC to a third title in their 10-year history, to go with back-to-back premierships in 2012-13. He coached the club’s reserve-grade team to the 2016 premiership.
“It’s a pleasure to be involved with this club – the way they all get on, the way they all work for each other,” he said.