THE hype, the anticipation, the build-up – all for nothing.
As if the Ballarat Red Devils pre-season (and that of the National Premier League Victoria) had not been tumultuous enough, Saturday night’s eagerly awaited season opener against Bentleigh Greens was abandoned at the 11th hour after a thunderstorm hit eastern Melbourne.
Constant lightning, booming thunder and driving rain made the match virtually unplayable, made even worse by damage to the lights on one side of the pitch from the storms.
Although the surface of Kingston Heath Soccer Complex appeared to hold up well, the referees and both sides agreed to call off the match.
The match was officially abandoned about 7.20pm, 20 minutes after it was due to start.
Ballarat Red Devils manager James Robinson remained philosophical about the outcome as his team made the road trip back to Ballarat, still waiting to make their debut at the highest level in Victoria.
Earlier, the under-20s match was also called off late in the second half, with Ballarat trailing 2-0.
Speaking after the game had been called off, Robinson said it was frustrating, in that his side was desperate to start its season.
However, he did not feel the abandonment actually came as a blessing in disguise, given three key players (Robinson, English recruit Danny O’Donnell and midfielder Dane Milovanovic) were all going to be out of action.
“The anticipation had been built up and the boys just wanted to get out there and gauge where we are at,” said Robinson, who is currently battling a knee injury.
“There’s nothing you can do, you can’t control it so there’s no point worrying about it.”
Upon learning the match was cancelled, Robinson had his side back on the pitch for a fitness session, while their opponents retreated back to the change rooms.
“We have to keep moving forward and improving, we don’t want to lose our fitness,” he said.
“We last trained on Thursday so if you wait until Monday, that’s three or four days without a run.
“All you can do is react to what happens and react in a positive way.”
The match has been rescheduled to Saturday, August 30.
The Reds will now shift their attention to the knockout Dockerty Cup match on Tuesday night, where they meet the Bayside Argonauts in Truganina.
Their next NPLV match will be against Goulburn Valley Suns in Shepparton on Saturday, March 29.