TALK about a sliding doors moment.
Graham Arnold's international coaching career literally came down to one kick or save as the Socceroos negotiated their way through a penalty shoot-out in their World Cup play-off match against Peru in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Lose and Arnie's stint as Socceroos boss was over. Win and he leads Australia to a fifth consecutive World Cup.
The Socceroos' path to the biggest show on the planet was cursed during Arnold's playing days, but this time the football gods shone on the Narrabeen 58-year-old in Doha.
Replacement goal-keeper Andrew Redmayne, bravely introduced into the game by Arnold just for the penalty shoot-out, produced a save for the ages to deny Peru's sixth spot kicker and book the Roos a place in this year's finals.
Arnold, who was put through the wringer emotionally and physically during a gruelling qualifying process, choked back tears as he reflected on a tumultuous few years.
"No-one knows what these boys have been through to get to here. It was so hard, the whole campaign," he said.
"I called for Anthony Albanese to give fans the day off to celebrate this because I believe this is one of the greatest (Australian sporting) achievements ever to qualify for this World Cup."
Asked if the result sticks it to his many critics, Arnie replied: "The doubters don't bother me. It's these boys that I care for, the game I care for."
There are not too many players who could turn an axing into a positive. Manly's Jake Trbojevic - a perennial "glass half-full" type of bloke - is an exception to the rule.
He was inexplicably left out of the NSW squad for game one of the Origin series but refused to stick pins into Brad Fittler voodoo dolls. Instead, "Jurbo' put his head down at Manly, leading the Sea Eagles in the absence of skipper Daly Cherry-Evans and turning in his two best games of the season.
He watched Origin I from home, loudly cheering the Blues home and showing genuine disappointment when the Blues fell just short. Asked how he felt as Origin unfolded without him, a typically upbeat Trbojevic told Inside Back: "Early it was disappointing but I've had two really enjoyable weeks of footy with Manly. It was a silver lining to lead this club and these great players. It's a great challenge and one I've enjoyed. I love playing for Manly."
Fittler is unlikely to leave the workaholic forward out of side for the must-win game two in Perth on Sunday week.
The St Augustine's rugby community will take an attempt at breaking the (unofficial) world record for the longest player tunnel when their side runs out for the top-of-the table encounter with Oakhill College at Rat Park on Saturday. Hundreds are expected to line the path onto the field for the game, which kicks off at 3pm. The under-13s will start the day's action from 8am.
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