CHICAGO, IL- In another game for the ages between these two classic rivals, Chicago outlasted a ferocious Kangaroo outfit but ended up paying a huge cost for the win with two big injuries, both broken ankles… and worse, to Chris ‘Bluey’ Carroll and Brett ‘Pablo’ Isadore. Isadore’s fracture is less severe but will sideline him for most of the season whereas big Bluey’s horrific injury in the dying moments could end one of the great American careers in MAAFL and US Footy.
Nashville was treated to a beautiful day at Rogers Park with a disappointing crowd basking in a pleasant 70 degrees with a slight wind that had no real effect on the game but if it did, it was towards the southern end where Chicago, who won the toss on captain BJ Gambaros call, were kicking. An interesting decision by Nashville to only play 14 a side, despite bringing 20 blokes, left plenty on the bench for both teams and on a big ground, there was plenty of running ahead, particularly for the backlines of both teams as the two big forwards, the magnificently besparkling domed Chris Moerman from Nashville and the father to be in Roofy Ward for Chicago were both coming into the game in red hot form. Both teams opted for a spare man in defence to stifle the big men as Whitey took the first bounce to get her underway.
From the bounce, Chicago cleared and with a forward line more open than a Illinois politicians checkbook, gave Ambrosino plenty of room to move and the little fella swooped onto a ball and slotted a smart snap through (on the left boot by the way!!) to get proceedings going. Chicago continued to attack and when big Roofy tapped a loose ball to his coach, he took off like a gazelle and Drakes handball found the leaping leviathan (it’s a word, look it up!) who sauntered into an open goal to send shivers down the Kangaroo bench as Marty Thompson searched for answers. It didn’t take the kangas long to find those answers however and the boys from the the other side of the Mason Dixon hit back with a vengeance. Slated in pre game chats as a potential game winner, perennial Chicago pain in the butt Dee Vsetka started to get plenty of it and banged home Nashvilles first after a nice handball got him into open space. Seconds later, Nashvilles best in little Matty Langley broke free to snap truly and it was all Nashville as they dominated the center through the brothers Grimm in the Nemeths and Dave Walker (great to see him back after the injury too just quietly) was getting a tonne of touches too. The Kangaroo’s ageless legend, Jeff Persson showed he still has plenty left in the tank as he hit the bagman in Moerman with a cracker pass on the left tit which the follicularly challenged big fella slotted home from about 40 out. At quarter time, Nashville had shot out to a 3.4: 22 to 2.2: 14 lead.
The second stanza started much like the first with Chicago getting the jump on the Roos early in this, the 15th meeting of the two clubs. From the throw in, Roofy was able to gather and snap truly to wrest the lead back. From a center clearance, Ambrosino kicked a coaches manual perfect crumbers goal to get the crowd of around 50 going as the Chicago forwards started to appreciate the service given to them. Ward was the difference between the two teams and when a full tilt Ryan Hayse hit him on the lead, the big fella was able to slot home number three. When Roofy kicked his fourth after a big grab over Travis Quigley, the United had opened up a 19 point buffer and looked poised to take control of the game as their runners were starting to get on top and the backline was providng plenty of opportunities in transition as Nashville continued to bomb it into the big fella in Moerman, hoping he could beat 2 and sometimes 3 Chicago defenders. Matt Langley, who worked tirelessly all over the ground was winning plenty of the ball and received a free kick in front of goal which he duly slotted through to stop the Chicago momentum. Another free kick seconds later brought up another Nashville goal, this time through Moerman as the Kangaroos, as they had done in the first, hit back at their hosts. At the half, Chicago led 6.6: 42 to Nashvilles 5.8: 38
Langley, Vsetka and Moerman were the topics of heated conversation as the Chicago coaching staff looked to stem the tide of undisciplined free kicks and a center line for Nashville that was cutting Chicago to shreds. Drake came out of the forward line and into a ruck roving position after Pablo Iasadores injury. This sent Bradshaw up forward and then the two telling moves of the game for Chicago were probably Crabs Dhoory onto Matt Langley and a very quiet Drew Wolfe onto Chris Moerman to give the St Louis twins in Gambaro and Caroll room to move in the backline. Dhoory in particular was instrumental as he tagged and harassed Langley to perfection, slowing the little man down and stopping the free reign he was haivng at the stoppages where he was able to constantly hurt the United.
Nashville came out hard but the Chicago defence stood tall with Drew Wolfe revelling in his new role on the dangerous Moerman with several goal saving spoils frustrating Mustard De Jongs Nashville twin. Roofy, leading hard, was able to snap truly and kick his fifth as he threatened again to break the game open off his own boot. From the ensuing bounce, big EP, playing his first game in Chicago colors, found Drake who, after dodging a few tacklers and surprising all with his agility, hit a running Betty Palmer in space who dutifully nailed Chris Bradshaw who went back and went BANG to set the dingoes amongst the Kangaroos as Chicago again looked set to run away with the game. But this is a well coached, desperate Nashville team who hate losing, particularly to us and they once again were able to hit back as Chicago started to look tired. Mischa Nemeth started getting kicks and their other big Australian, Justin White, was taking mark after mark. Vsetka was awarded another free kick in front of goal to get some reward for the hard work being done by the Roo boys. They continued to attack but the Chicago defence hung on desperately, continually forcing the Roo forwards into hurried shots and never giving them the space they wanted. A late bomb on the siren brought up Chris Bradshaws second of the game, a very important goal in the context fo the game as it was against the flow and stemmed the Nashville pressure as both teams went into the orange break with Chicago leading 9.7: 61 to 6.13: 49.
Both coaches pleaded with their tiring charges but it was Nashville that came out best and if not for some huge work by the Chicago backs in Gambaro, Carroll, Uhlmann, Oscar, Rocky Deeham and Wolfe, Nashville could have stolen this one. As it was, Nashville youngster ‘Whippet’ Liepply kicked the quarters first, a ripper of a snap from a Nemeth handball that surprised no one more than young Whippet himself whose clebrations saw him take off down Western Avenue with an impressive series of cartwheels, handstands, round outs and plenty of high fives to anyone within a mile radius. Whippet had another chance seconds later but was unable to slot that one through. Chicago was desperate and it was the big man that stepped up again, Roofy bringing up the two finger salute with another smart snap.
The game was delayed for 20 minutes after the sickening injury to Bluey Carroll saw the paramedics cart him off and the Chicago coaching staff were scrambling as they looked to fill the humongous void left by him and his mate BJ who accompanied him to the hospital. A free kick to Moerman 15 out sent shivers through the crowd but he missed and from the kick in Chicago were able to clear down the outer wing where Uhlmann found Drake who was in a tonne of space. He popped it over to Nolan Mc Keegan who centered for Chicago. Some to-ing and fro-ing eventually saw the ball fall back to McKeegan who banged home the winner for Chicago as De Jong breathed a massive sigh of relief on the sideline. Chicago continued to attack as their depth showed through and they were able to run out the game, winning 11.7: 73 to 7.17: 59
This was probably the most important game of the season as it puts Chicago in the drivers seat to claim their third MAAFL title in as many years. Nashville will rue missed opportunities as they try to beat Chicago on the road, a feat not yet accomplished. The game however, was a tribute to both teams and an excellent example of Australian Football with tough, uncompromising styles on both sides of the ball. In a tale of two forwards, it was Roofy Ward who ruled the roost and put his stamp on this game from the outset as Moerman battled hard against a determined Drew Wolfe whose second half was instrumental in this win, keeping the big fella to just 2 for the game. Carroll and Isadore are huge losses that Chicago must overcome if they are to come out of the deep freeze in Minneapolis with a win in three weeks.
|Goals||United: Ward (6), Bradshaw (2), Ambrosino (2), McKeegan
|Best||United: Ward, Ambrosino, Carroll, Deehan, Wolfe, Doorhy V, Gambaro
Stacy Elmore (missing an absolute sitter of a goal 2ft out under no pressure)