Cronulla Junior League Development Officer Matt Tope returned to work last week after an all-conquering trip to Coffs Harbour for the Touch Football World Cup.
A member of the successful Australian men’s side, alongside files of junior development and school clinic programs at his desk at Sharkies Leagues Club last Monday sat a gold medal that confirmed his status as a world champion.
With the Australian side claiming the title 11-2 in the final against the Kiwis, the medal came as reward for Tope’s determined efforts over almost a decade.
The 32-year-old had toured South Africa in 2007 as a part of the Australian mixed side, and eight years later, Tope said he had finally achieved his dream.
“The goal was always to play in the mens’ side,” Tope said.
“Mixed was a bit of a stepping stone, and I loved it for what it was, but I always wanted to graduate to men’s.”
Tope had walked away from the South African tournament with a silver medal, as the side were beaten by New Zealand in the competition’s decider.
Holding a burning desire to rise to the next level of competition, he dedicated countless hours of training ahead of the 2011 World Cup in Scotland.
But in the lead-up to the competition, Tope incurred a cruelling injury – and despite racing the clock to be back, he would not play a part in Scotland.
A will to succeed saw him finally earn the men’s team call-up ahead of the 2015 World Cup at Coffs Harbour.
“It was almost a sense of relief to be truthful. You put so much effort in, and there’s so much training,” said Tope.
“I’ve probably been dropped from every team that there is to be dropped from, but to finally come out the other end and to have the gold medal around my neck, it’s a leg up to say that all the training was worth it.”
Back at work planning his programs for the week that lay ahead, Tope said he had seen first-hand the influence of touch football in the development of junior league players.
“The two sports have a strategic alliance, which is cross promoting the sport,” Tope said.
“The alliance with the Rugby League is going to make the participation numbers boom – that’s the whole point of the coming together.
“It’d be great to see the numbers going up, especially locally.”
Highlights from the Touch Football World Cup will be broadcast on Channel 9 before our Sunday 4pm match against the Dragons on May 31.