Parramatta Power coach Nick Theodorakopoulos hasn't got to the position he's in without making a few courageous decisions in his managerial career, but few could have paid off more handsomely than the one he made against the Football Kingz at Parramatta Stadium on October 4.
Replacing Fernando Rech with Travis Dodd in the 27th minute was something of an eyebrow-raiser, it has to be said, but the replacement more than repaid his coach's faith in him by hitting a hat-trick in Power's 4-1 triumph over the winless Kiwi combination.
Up to that point in the game, Parramatta - the team with all the talents - had dominated proceedings against opponents defending in numbers and with great resolve. Rech had fired tamely at Ross Nicholson in the sixth minute, then rightly been denied a penalty after diving over the Kingz goalkeeper four minutes later, Lucas Pantelis, as with the earlier chance, having engineered the opening.
Nicholson then blocked from Ahmad Elrich, and John Tambouras blocked a Pantelis drive as the Kingz employed scrambling defensive methods to thwart Parramatta, the one-time All White custodian capably dealing with a stinging twenty-five yarder from Pantelis in the nineteenth minute.
The first incident of note following Dodd's introduction to the fray saw a viciously struck Simon Colosimo free-kick being turned to safety by Nicholson at his near post on the half-hour. But within the next six minutes, the Kingz 'keeper made two errors of judgement which turned the game Parramatta's way.
A Colosimo corner in the 32nd minute was fumbled by Nicholson under pressure on the near post. The pressuriser was Dodd, who wasted little time in pouncing on the loose ball to open the scoring.
Four minutes later, and another Colosimo corner, this time played short to Pantelis. The midfielder's cross was an absolute peach - a nightmare for a goalkeeper, as Nicholson quickly discovered. The 'keeper came for it, but got nowhere near the ball, Dodd nipping in ahead of all-comers to head home in to the untended net.
After Harry Ngata had ensured the half would conclude with the Kingz having registered at least one shot on goal - the striker fired wide of the mark after Brad Scott had dispossessed Andre Gumprecht, John Buonavoglia ended the half with a flourish, turning two defenders inside out before firing a shot across Nicholson, an effort which deserved better fate than to hit the far post and ricochet to safety.
The second half saw Parramatta carrying on from where they left off initially, Elrich and Dodd combining neatly on the right, with the latter sending a low cross fizzing across the face of goal, just beyond the incoming Buonavoglia. Soon after, a strong surge by Andrew Durante culminated in a chance for Colosimo, which was only denied the midfielder by Mauro Donoso's timely challenge.
The Kingz made a couple of changes at the interval, throwing caution to the wind as they sought to make a contest out of what, to that point, had been a largely one-sided affair. To their credit, for a good twenty minute spell in the second half, they made a game of it.
The half-time entrants to the fray, Paul Harries and Tallan Martin, combined on the right in the 53rd minute, the latter firing over a deep cross for Chris Jackson. He played the ball into Ngata near the edge of the penalty area, who held the ball up well while the Kingz captain moved into position for the return pass.
Jackson duly arrived on cue, and let fly with a superbly struck low, side-footed twenty-five yard effort which the largely inactive Clint Bolton was grateful to see skid past his right-hand post and hit the rear stanchion.
Four minutes later, the Kingz were on the scoreboard, Scott having gathered the ball on the left and cut inside before crossing towards the far post. The retreating Alvin Ceccoli's attempt to head clear succeeded only in directing the ball perfectly into Martin's path, and the striker gleefully headed into an empty net.
For the best part of the next fifteen minutes, Parramatta were a somewhat nervous combination, as the Kingz thrived on their new-found confidence. But the wind was taken from their sails eighteen minutes from time when Dodd pounced to complete his hat-trick.
After slipping Buonavoglia down the right, "Supersub" moved forward in support of the attack, and when Jason Rowley cleared Buonavoglia's low cross to the edge of the area, up stepped Dodd to ram home Power's match-winning goal.
There was no way back for the Kingz after this, and only a string of saves by Nicholson - from Dodd, Elrich and Matt Thompson - plus a vital covering run by Glen Collins to thwart Buonavoglia - kept the score down.
A fourth goal was inevitable, however, and it came in stoppage time. Gumprecht slipped the outstanding Buonavoglia in on the right, and the striker lured Nicholson out of goal before unselfishly squaring the ball to Elrich to wrap up the 4-1 victory for one of the genuine title contenders in 2003.