Narrabri Elevens FC is now one win away from its first grand final appearance after becoming the first Namoi Soccer League team to secure a preliminary final spot.
The Elevens finished round 11 in second place following two wins in as many matches which were played on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
The side took on Moree Services FC in both of those games and won 5-2 in Moree on Friday in a rescheduled round eight match then 5-1 at Hogan Oval on Saturday in round 11.
Both victories were inspired by a red-hot Riley Jenkins who scored three goals on Friday night then backed up that incredible effort with four more goals on Saturday.
Those two wins saw the Elevens climb above Moree and also Wee Waa, which lost its round 11 game 5-3 at home against first-placed Sporties FC, into second.
With one game remaining Elevens FC is five points ahead of last-placed Moree which can no longer catch the Narrabri outfit.
That means that the Elevens have guaranteed themselves their first finals appearance since 2017.
They will play in the September 19 preliminary final against either Wee Waa or Moree, at either Hogan Oval or in Wee Waa, depending on the results of the final round this Saturday.
The Elevens play against Wee Waa at Cook Oval in round 12 and will finish second with a win or a draw. However, a Wee Waa win would see the defending champions reclaim second spot and the right to host the preliminary final.
Jenkins’ performances were five star on Friday and Saturday.
The 20-year-old is in form at the right time of the season and now leads his team’s golden boot tally with 10, and is third in the competition’s golden boot race behind Sporties FC’s Cooper Brayshaw and Blake Jarrett who have netted 12 times each.
Jenkins is playing in Narrabri for the first time this year since 2009 after spending eight years playing at either NPL or other high levels in Queensland. He told The Courier that he has rediscovered his passion for the game since returning home and pulling on the purple for the Elevens.
“I’m absolutely loving it,” Jenkins said.
“Getting to play my first season with my brother (Brady Jenkins) has been one of the best things about the year.
“I’ve been feeling good for the first time in a few years playing, and I’ve actually been playing with a smile on my face and been enjoying it.
“The past few years I was getting a bit over it and wasn’t finding any
motivation to play.
“But at the moment I’m just loving it.”
The young attacking midfielder said that he was quite surprised that he found the back of the net seven times in two matches.
“I’m in shock still,” Jenkins said on Sunday.
“My favourite was the hat-trick goal in the second game. Bailey (Campbell) went down the line, took someone on and beat him and whipped it across the box and
I was about a metre past the penalty spot and cracked it with the left foot into the top bins then I ran off and did a backflip.
“That Saturday game my mum was back watching so I had to perform, she was here watching the game the week before and I didn’t play that well. She was very proud on Saturday, I even got a cuddle.”
Jenkins said that the Elevens were gelling well together and were ready to push for a grand final spot.
“I think the boys have come closer this year and everyone’s getting along, there’s very good morale,” Jenkins said.
“I reckon this year we’ve already won in a way, looking back at the past few seasons the team has had.
“But I also reckon our chances of getting to the grand final and having a good crack are pretty high.
“It would be good to get a win this weekend to go into the finals feeling confident.”To order photos from this page click here