Brisbane Heat had just secured themselves a place in the semi-finals of the 2018 QLD State Women’s Tournament when a monumental error from one of their players handed their opponents a golden opportunity to knock them out of the competition. The moment the ball was tossed to the wrong man, the title of ‘best of the rest’ vanished and the tournament was officially over. You wouldn’t want to bet against those odds, would you?

A big part of what makes sports so appealing is the human element. As a fan, you’re able to vicariously share in the triumphs and heartbreaks of your favourite teams and players. The rush of victory, the agony of defeat – it’s all part of the drama that makes sports so compelling. But as much as we like to think that sports is all about exciting games and thrilling events, sometimes the most memorable matches and most heartwarming stories don’t always have the most thrilling of endings. Sometimes, the human factor can get in the way and mar the perfect narrative. This is what happened when James Pattinson accidentally threw the ball to the wrong man during a women’s football match in 2018 – it was the perfect storm that created the ultimate Cinderella story. Let’s examine the details.

The Blundering Blonde

England rose to prominence as a power house in women’s football in the 1950s and 60s and they were a force to be reckoned with. Between them, the England women’s team had won the three most glorious tournaments in the history of the game – the British Ladies’ League, the European Championships and the FIFA World Cup. It was clear that any team facing them in a football match had their work cut out for them. A few years back, we were treated to one of the great British comebacks of all time as England Women were able to trump Germany 1-0 in the semi-finals of the 2017 European Championships in order to secure a place in the finals. It was a classic English reserve force and strong team effort that saw them come back from going a goal down in the final minutes of the game to register a famous victory and a place in the history books as one of England’s strongest teams. Alas, England would go on to lose the match 3-1 to an incredible German side featuring three ‘Golden Boot’ winners.

As we’ve established, the British Ladies’ League was the predecessor to the English Women’s Football Championship and the two competitions merged in 1968 to form the domestic game we know and love today. In 2018, England Women were the defending champions and they also set the early standard for the tournament by beating New Zealand Women 5-0 in a friendly prior to the start of the competition. It was a confidence-boosting victory for the English and they went on to face a tough draw in the Group Stage which featured Australia, defending champions England and Japan. Australia won 2-1 thanks in part to a golden goal from a courageous English midfielder. It was a heartbreaking end to what would have been an incredible journey for the Aussies had they won that game. Needless to say, they were furious about the result and refused to let their team celebrate as they were excluded from the next match – rightfully so. They would have to wait until the final to let their hair down but the damage was already done. Australia had been knocked out of the 2018 QLD State Women’s Tournament by the time the final whistle blew.

The Accidental Throwing

The final whistle had barely blown when a mass brawl broke out between the two sets of players. Amid the chaos, one of the English players accidentally tossed the ball to the wrong man. It was a catastrophic error made by the usually reliable James Pattinson. A lethal striker, Pattinson had been England’s best player all tournament and her goal-poaching ability was a big reason behind the side’s success. The last thing England needed was for one of their star players to botch an attempted clearance and gift the match to their opponents. The damage was already done: any hopes Australia had of an upset were dashed within seconds as England raced into an unassailable 2-0 lead. The tournament was over before it started as the hapless Aussies watched on as their counterparts celebrated a well-deserved victory and closed the book on yet another crushing defeat. The last straw for a group of players who had taken it upon themselves to give the Aussies a good seeing to was when some of them taunted the vanquished after the final whistle. Even the usually composed and level-headed England captain, Karen Bardsley, couldn’t hold back her rage, launching an attack on one of the Aussie players. The row was eventually settled down after the police were called. England fans will have felt a wave of sympathy for the Aussie players who suffered yet another heartbreaking loss. Yet another chapter in the long, storied history of the rivalry was written. Let’s hope that the Aussies can take some solace from the fact that they played a significant role in England’s downfall. They gave everything they had and it was enough to see the game through to the end. Onwards and upwards for Team Australia.