“It was an unbelievable experience to start in an Australia Cup final at such a young age,” 19-year-old Sydney FC central defender Jake Girdwood-Reich told The AJN following the Sky Blues’ come-from behind 3-1 triumph over fellow A-League Men’s club the Brisbane Roar last Saturday night, in front of a delighted Allianz Stadium crowd.
“These are the type of big games you want to play in your career,” Girdwood-Reich said.
Since making his professional debut in a Round of 32 match in last year’s Australia Cup, the talented Jewish player – who loves the physicality of being a key defender, while also taking opportunities to shift towards the midfield when his team is in possession – has won his club’s 2022 Rising Star award, established his place in the starting squad, and earned a three-year contract extension.
A determined Brisbane side got off to a red-hot start in the final, scoring in the 18th minute, and looked dangerous throughout the first half.
But Sydney FC re-grouped during the break – fired up by a stern talking to by head coach Steve Corica – and were able to control possession, kept the Roar scoreless in the second half, and scored three goals through a brace by Brazilian import Fabio Gomes, and a simple tap in by Robert Mak from a superb cross by Mark Viduka Medal winner Joe Lolley.
It was Sydney FC’s first Australia Cup win since 2017, earning them a play-off spot for the AFC Asian Cup, while serving as the perfect preparation for their 2023/24 A-League Men season opener on October 21.
Girdwood-Reich had an impactful game in the final for the Sky Blues, putting his body directly in the way of on-target shots at goal by the Roar in the 20th and 61st minutes, cleaning up a dangerous loose ball heading towards his goal in the 79th minute, and bringing intensity into every challenge for possession.
He was unlucky not to score a goal in the 66th minute, positioning himself near the Roar’s goalposts when Sydney FC took a corner kick, latching onto a dipping ball to execute a shot, which took a high-reaching save by Brisbane’s keeper Macklin Freke to deflect above the crossbar.
Reflecting on the match, Girdwood-Reich said, “We were a bit off the pace to begin with, and Brisbane were a good side, moving the ball very well.
“But when we went in at half-time, we all believed that we could still come back, and it showed.”
Corica said, “For me, it was very important the way the boys turned it around.
“I’m very happy for the players – they really stood up in the second half.”
Sydney’s keeper Andrew Redmayne, in a sideline interview on Channel 10, said, “I thought we were quite solid at the back, with Jake and Gabriel [Lacerda] playing very well, so there wasn’t that much for me to do in the second half.”
As for Girdwood-Reich’s next goal, it’s simple.
“I want to keep my spot in the team, and play on a consistent basis and perform, because every footballer wants to play more games, and have them under their belt.
“I also want to stay healthy and fit to achieve this, and show everyone what I can do.”