This past weekend the boys headed over to Dublin, OH for the USAFL Nationals Tournament. Four divisions of 6 teams and a women’s division rounds out the carnival with Clubs from as far as North as Calgary and the Squids in the South.
The Swans headed down there with a reasonable amount of confidence with solid wins over Nashville, Ohio Valley & an admirable loss to the Freeze in the lead up to the 2 day carnival.
The Red & Whites travelled with a squad of 23 and were pretty confident of a positive start to the carnival first up with a noon game against our rival, and Division Premier last year, Columbus Jackaroos. The home team were always going to be hard to beat. While the scoreline shows that we were beaten, it wasn’t without chances, and in 40 minutes of football you have to make the most of your chances.
A couple of marks in the forward line may have resulted in goals and this could have made the world of difference, but instead Revo half back, Chet was able to thwart a lot of our forward thrusts. We did go down swinging but to no avail. We had a number of individual performances that were really pleasing.
Brad Ross on the wing had a stellar game, Webby was asked to step up and play center half back for the Tournament and his first game was superb. Mike Panek was his usual reliable self. Cliffy came in for his first Nationals with the Swans and fitted in very well, there is no frills with Cliffy, just hard at it honest football. Additionally, nationals newbie, Tommy ‘Sherman Tank’ Shearman was firing on all cylinders and providing some much needed grunt in the middle. Woody was our sole goal kicker for the game, taking a fine mark and goaling after the half time siren.
Game 1 – Saturday @ Noon
Best: Panek, Tommy, Brad Ross, Pony, Cliffy, Webby
Our next challenge was against unknown side, Houston Lonestars. There was nothing lonely about their game, they were a tall group of athletic lads, and really rolled over the top of us, all too easily. Our shining light from that game was the continued good form of Pedro. He has impressed all year, and will look to see him polling well in this year’s MVP award. With a scoreline like this, you would expect the back line to feature heavily in best player awards.
Once again Webby played really well, and interestingly enough, his soul mate, Danny showed us some glimpses of the sort of footy he has shown of his potential. Pony continued to battle but around the ground he was often left to do the ground work with some second efforts almost non existent.
This was quite a disappointing game for the Swans as I don’t believe we have ever been beaten that comprehensibly in a Nationals game. We all recognized as a group that this was not the way the Swans play, and Rich Noty would have had a sleepless night knowing that we had one game on the Sunday morning to make amends.
Game 2 – Saturday @ 5pm
Best: Webby, Pedro, Pony, Joe, Danny, Stu
Dinner on Saturday was not as jovial as it could have been, however the food and Oxford Landing wine was really good at Mezzo, somewhat taking our minds off the days events. The ball sat squarely in the lads court in the final game against, a once powerhouse Boston Demons.
The determination and will to get to the contest and tackle was a pleasure to see on Sunday morning on a dewy track. Boston burst out of the blocks and had 2 goals on the board before we had travelled past our own half forward. To the boys credit they stood up and basically said this is our game and were gonna fight for it. And fight for it they did. Danny Yunes continued on from the 5 o’clock game against Houston to play a quality and valuable game for the Swans. Panek took quite a few marks playing that kick behind play that he does so well. Pedro has gone from strength to strength this year, and has really become one of the club leaders, recognized with being named, vice captain for the tournament.
It was really good to have the footy smarts of the junkyard dog, Joe on board for the tournament and his game against Boston was valuable. Gambol who battled hard all weekend, took a couple good marks and was able to nullify his opponent.
Pony played an uncustomary role in the second half, giving us some much needed height at center half back, he played this role very good and even managed to kick a goal. New the club Stu Nicol, made a special request to play back pocket, but coach Hendrie recognized pretty early on in the piece that he likes nothing more than to kick goals, his two goals proved to be the difference in the two sides, with Boston managing just one point in the second half.
Game 3 – Sunday @ 9am
Goals: Pony, Al, Stu 2
Best: Pedro, Panek, Joe, Gambo, Danny, Stu
Full credit to the squad that pulled on the jersey this weekend, we didn’t make the final but we did manage to come out Sunday morning and prove to ourselves and the supporters that came out to watch that we can play big city ball. Let’s harness that energy and bring it back next year.
Our next event is Red & White night, where we recognize the individual efforts for the year. Pedro would have to be in the hunt for MVP this year, Stu will have a big say in the Al MacGlashan goal kicking award this year, and who will win best first year and most improved? All will be revealed in four weeks time.