FRATERNITY CLUB CUP
A straight-shooting Michael Garcia has made the dreaded "R" word taboo this year - and judging on pre-season results he won't have any problem.
For so long fighting to avoid Illawarra Premier League relegation on a shoestring budget, South Coast United are on the brink of their first pre-season silverware since 1990.
A first-half penalty from Ricky Bertakis gifted them a 1-0 win over Woonona in the Fraternity Club Cup semi-final on Wednesday. Now they've got a bigger fish to fry in Tarrawanna in the tournament's grand final tomorrow.
Garcia, who returned to Ian McLellan Park after nursing Wests Illawarra to a District League title last term, wants it to be a sign of things to come. "I think the priority for many years has been to avoid relegation . . . I hate that," Garcia said.
"I don't think that's a priority for me - I think that's a given that we need to avoid relegation. I've set the goals a little bit higher.
"I want to be in the top half of the table and fighting for semis. That's a view that few people are finding it hard to take because we're competing with clubs like [Dapto] Dandaloo and Tarrawanna. They're big clubs.
"I don't care about who we're playing against and I'm looking to raise the bar a little bit."
United get no better test of where they stand than against the Blueys, 4-2 winners over Port Kembla in the other semi-final.
Garcia said rekindling his association with a number of players he coached at an under-age and reserve grade level had made his transition to the club a lot smoother.
"Anything's possible when you're giving 100 per cent, but we're against a good side which has been in the top two or top three for many years now with big players," he said.
"We'll be in there fighting and I guess by the end of the day we'll see how far we've come and how far we still have to go. I think we're getting there and by the time the season starts the boys will know they can beat anyone on their day."
Tarrawana's reigning George Naylor medallist Tim O'Brien said his squad had enough depth to cover a hectic early-season schedule and would be wary of South Coast United on the break.
"The club gets pretty excited about these sorts of things," he said. "It's important to get off to a winning start and develop a bit of culture from the get go.
"They're always a solid team and they will probably try to catch us on the counter. We'll have to maintain our discipline."
Warilla and Shell Cove will battle it out in the District League Fraternity Club Cup grand final tomorrow, while a host of first-round Bert Bampton Cup fixtures will be played across the region today.
• District League: Warilla Wanderers v Shell Cove FC (12.30pm)
• Frat Cup GF: Tarrawanna v South Coast United (2.30pm)
*Both matches to be played at Memorial Park