From the villages of Iraq to the verge of a Football Wagga premiership, many players in Lake Albert Red's under 15-16 boys team have been on quite a journey.
The team secured first spot in the grand final with a 4-1 win against South Wagga last Saturday, avenging their only loss of the season, a 1-0 defeat to the Warriors when an own goal proved costly.
Other than that, a couple of 2-0 wins have been their closest contests and in five of 10 regular season games, the Sharks racked up double figures. In their last five games, they've scored 51 goals and conceded two.
"They're doing great. They played very well (against South Wagga). They followed the instructions, they played beautiful soccer and they won 4-1," proud coach Laith Gardner said.
With it, Lake Albert Red earned a week off and the chance to go one better than last year, when they went down 2-0 to Lake Albert Black in the grand final.
For many, the story really began a long time before last year's finals.
"I coached these players last year. Nine players are refugees from Iraq. They are Yazidi and they'd never been on a field... never been to a soccer game on a field. They are from the villages. They just played in the street," Gardner said.
"We work hard with them. They love soccer. I can speak two languages with them and they understand.
"They're doing great, they are respectable, good boys.
"Last year we came second. This year, hopefully they win the competition."
Gardner's daughter Maryam is captain and plays centre midfield.
The coach said last year's season started slowly but he's been thrilled with their improvement and development in the back half of last season and through this year.
"Last year they were a little bit young, 14, 15 years old. This year, seven are 16 and half the team can still play again next year," he said.
Among them is Natheer Al Hsasn who scored two goals in last week's semi-final win and has emerged from almost nowhere as the competition's leading goalscorer, with 17 goals in the regular season.
"Last year he was 'keeper, this year, top goalscorer (in the league)," Gardner said.
Not far behind him is 14-year-old Eric Gardner, whose elder brothers Fred and Henri are leading Leeton United's Pascoe Cup finals charge.
In other grades, minor premiers Wagga United Swifts (in the under 14s and under 12s) and Henwood Park (in the under 13s) all locked up a grand final spot with semi-final wins.
The Football Wagga junior boys grand finals are on Saturday October 24 at Equex Centre.
In the inaugural under 12-14 girls competition, Wagga United and Tolland will meet in the grand final this Saturday after winning their semi-finals.
Football Wagga Junior Semi-finals results:
Under 12-14 girls:
SF1: Wagga United d Henwood Park 5-0
SF2: Tolland d Lake Albert 7-3
(Wagga United to play Tolland in Saturday's grand final)
BOYS SEMI-FINALS: (SF 2 winners qualify for grand final; SF1 winners play loser of SF2 this week):
SF1: Tolland Lobos d Wagga United Crows 7-0
SF2: Wagga United Swifts d Tolland Wolves 4-0
Under 13 boys:
SF1: Tumut d Lake Albert Black 2-1
SF2: Henwood Park d Wagga United Swifts 7-6
Under 14 boys:
SF1: Henwood Park Hawks d Tolland Wolves Sharks 5-0
SF2: Wagga United Swifts d Tumut 4-2
Under 15-16 boys:
SF1: Henwood Park Falcons d Wagga United Swifts 3-2
SF2: Lake Albert Red d South Wagga 4-1