SMOOTH OPERATOR: Edgeworth’s Kieran Sanders has given the three-time premiers another dimension in attack. Picture: Simone De PeakIN a grand final featuring former internationals and national league stars, little-known Englishman KieranSanders wants to be the best player on the park come Saturday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
And given the Edgeworth attacker’s form after a disrupted start to the Northern NSW National Premier League season, coach Damian Zane and many others won’t be surprised if he is.
The 25-year-old came from Far North Queensland Heat this year but missed Edgeworth’s opening games because of a suspension from a final-round brawl.
Sanders has since added to the Eagles’strike power and was a standout in the epic semi-final win over Magic last Saturday night.
While the headline acts this week will be Edgeworth striker Daniel McBreen and Lambton Jaffas stars Jobe Wheelhouse and Ryan and Joel Griffiths, Zane was looking for another touch of class from Sanders in a crunch game.
Sanders scored three goals and set up Edgeworth’s other in a 4-2FFA Cup win over Hamilton this year to announce himself as a force to be reckoned with.
“He gets on the scoresheet but he also brings other players into the game,” Zane said.“In the big games we’ve had, he’s been great, and I think his match at Darling Street was probably the best I’ve seen from someone in an Edgeworth shirt.
“He was amazing, and he’s just so tough. He has two or three blokes running at him and it doesn’t bother him.”
Sanders, whoscored in a 3-2 grand final loss to Redlands last year in Queensland, was keen to rise to the occasion for Edgeworth.
“I started off slow with my five-week ban and I had a little knee injury as well, but I think I’ve started to perform with the big games coming up,” he said. “I want to be the best player on the park, so hopefully that continues.”
Sanderswas playing non-league level at home in Oxford before coming to and made the trip to change his life in and out of football.
Although realistic about his chances, he has not given up on playing at a higher level and was hoping to make an impression on Saturday.
“If it came along I’d obviously bite its hand off,” he said of an opportunity to play professionally.
“But I had my chances when I was younger and I messed them up.But if it came along, I’d 100 per cent love to play professionally, but I’m just focused on Edgeworth and trying to win the grand final for them and see what offers I get next season.”
He is yet to re-sign but hopes to extend his visa and stay at Edgeworth.
“The intensity is always there, people are getting stuck in attraining.It’s always a battle, beforeyou evencome up against a team on the weekend,” he said of the Eagles.“It’s a good crack and the banter is flowing.Zaney has us organised, so I really enjoy it. It’s really professional.”
Sanders is working to overcome two corks in his thigh to be fit for the grand final but said he was in no doubt.
“Obviously it’s going to be a tough game, it’s the biggest game of the year and they’ve got Jobe Wheelhouse back in their team and Luke Remington who’s a really dangerous player in my eyes,” he said.
“So obviously we’ve got to keep them quiet and not let Jobe dictate the game and play at the pace they want to play at.”
As for the difference between the Queensland NPL and the Northern NSW version, Sanders said: “It’s a massive difference, the football is more intense down here, more physical, there’s better players in the league.
“You’ve got all those ex-A-League players as well. It’s definitely a better league, I’d say.”
Astonemason by trade, Sanders is working at Edgeworth treasurer Warren Mills’ Newcastle Sheetmetal business and hopes to stay in for another year or two.