Jewish 21-year-olds and 2022 Maccabiah Games Australian men’s futsal squad teammates, Noah Feilich and Ethan De Melo, capped off outstanding seasons for their respective clubs by winning two of the top honours at the 2023 NSW Futsal Premier League Awards, held on February 2.
Feilich – who on December 17 made three crucial saves in a pressure cooker grand final penalty shootout against Mountain Majik FC to seal a rare NSW men’s championship title for Eastern Suburbs Hakoah – was named the open men’s Goalkeeper of the Year for the first time.
He told The AJN from the United States, where he is on holiday, “To put in the hard work, and be recognised for it by all the clubs in the league, is a special feeling, and definitely a rewarding one.
“All the training in the pre-season and during the competition paid off, and I was able to be at my best, especially in the finals when it mattered most.”
Proud of starting his futsal journey with Hakoah as a fresh-faced 10-year-old, Feilich said the club is “like a big family for me”.
“To be one of the Jewish players [in its men’s squad] is something special, and definitely provides me with that extra motivation every time I step on the court.
“While I still have a lot to learn, I feel like I have a greater understanding of the game, thanks to the coaches and older goalkeepers I’ve had mentoring me.”
Feilich’s next goals are to win another championship with Hakoah, and to keep improving “to ultimately be included in the national team for the Asian Cup this April [in Thailand] and other tournaments in the future.”
Hakoah Futsal Club president Daniel Sharp said he couldn’t feel prouder of Feilich, whose “admirable work rate and endless commitment to becoming better has seen him rise to become the best goalkeeper in NSW, and one of the best in Australia today”.
“He’s earned it through hard work, dedication, and perseverance, and he has always had the ability – from U11s all the way through – to endure and bounce back from setbacks, and emerge stronger,” Sharp said.
“If any young Jewish player wants to see what it takes to succeed, they’d do well to follow Noah’s example.”
De Melo, a Futsalroos squad member who helped the Mascot Vipers men’s team finish the 2023 regular season in first place, received the 2023 NSW Premier League open men’s Player of the Year award.
It’s the first time the skilful goal creator and frequent scorer has won this award.
He told The AJN what “definitely helped me” were his Vipers teammates, and the team culture established at that club by its president, Zvi Ben David – “a character who brings such a positive light and energy to futsal”.
“We managed to finish first on the ladder because of the talent and depth we had,” De Melo said.
“I was lucky to be surrounded by a mix of great players – some I’ve played with for the past six years, some I’ve coached in recent years in the U19 age group, and some I’ve represented Australia with.”