Tweed Daily News

Local derby with heart

MICHAEL Sage devoted his life to football and tonight footballers dedicate their match to him.

The Michael Sage Memorial Cup will pit 22 of the Tweed's best in a fierce and heart-felt encounter, as Sage's beloved Uki Pythons clash with long-term rivals Burringbar at the Burringbar Sports Fields.

The Cup was born in June 2007 to commemorate the Uki founding member, who tragically fell victim to mesothelioma (asbestos poisoning), and passed away in February of that year.

“He put a lot of time and effort into football and loved it,” said Michael's widow Jenny, who will be in attendance along with daughter Michelle and son Daniel.

“He was very committed to the club and to all the kids playing in town.

“It's great that the guys are playing a game in his honour.”

Having served as coach, vice-president and reluctantly on occasion as president of Uki, Sage is widely remembered for his great contribution to the development of the “world game” on the Tweed.

Another proud clubman, Uki coach Joe Scholl was keen to revive the Cup and its memories.

“I found out there was a Cup in honour of Michael that was played a couple of years ago but hadn't been contested since,” he said.

“I thought that couldn't happen and that we should bring it back.

“It's always a good local clash when we play Burringbar, and it will be even better with added feeling.”

And let's not forget that two Football Far North Coast first division points are also up for grabs in the encounter.

Uki was dismal in its opening fixture last week, failing to convert possession into goals and ultimately being out-gunned 4-1 at home by Casino.

“We had a number of clear chances last week but didn't capitalise on them, and you can't afford to do that,” Scholl said.

“We need to get on the board this week, and so I've made a couple of changes.”

Uki will be buoyed by the return from injury of workhorse skipper Dave Stratton and former Byron Bay premier league recruit Ricky Russo, back from suspension

However the Pythons will have to get used to playing without stalwart John McCarthy, whose ankle injury looks set to rule him out for the remainder of the year.

While Burringbar is yet to play an FFNC fixture this season, the club's form in the Anzac Cup certainly hasn't gone unnoticed, as last year's strugglers battled their way to an impressive semi-final berth.

“Burringbar have a lot of players returning and will be much stronger than last year,” Scholl said.

“It's good for the game and for Burringbar themselves that they are coming back.

“They'll be strong and we're looking forward to the game.”

A curtain-raiser replay of last year's under-12 grand final between Burringbar and Uki will start proceedings, before the reserve grade battle kicks off at 6pm and the first grade clash gets under way at 8pm.

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