For a winter sport, the Tasmanian soccer season throws up perfect days like much more often than you might expect. The sun was out and the only cloud on the horizon was the fact that there will be another episode of Married at First Sight.
As usual, I arrived too late for any kind of warm-up (perfect timing) so just went with a quick stretch and half a tube of deep heat (also known as the fat man’s warm-up).
The Cookie Monster was a bit of a doubtful starter, but luckily he handles the mantle of leadership better than Kim Booth. He wasn't going to sit on the sidelines eating organic quinoa salad (they don't call him the salad monster- also I don’t mean to imply that Kim Booth eats quinoa either) that had been prepared by someone who hadn’t seen meat for two days and paying little attention to the performance of his team. He was here to lead and that was what he did- continuing to yell instructions (which were often ignored respectfully) and encouragement to his team members, before coming on and playing out the majority of the game.
I was disappointed to find out the Originals would be without the enterprise and creativity of Beni Hendriks, Mr Lineker, the Boss and TV Week Logie. Previously I’d never found a TV Week worth paying any attention to, but this one is the exception (sidenote girls, he is definitely worth paying attention to).
They say, ‘Cometh the hour cometh the man,’ but in the referee’s case it was more like, ‘Cometh fifteen minutes after the hour, cometh the man.’ He was nowhere in sight at kick off time, so Matty picked up the whistle of power to demonstrate what a good bloke he was (although not good enough to give the Originals any kind of advantage. This was never a problem though as, unlike the American automotive industry, the Originals ask for no advantage.) and did an excellent job until the official ref arrived.
The first forays of the game looked promising for the Originals, but Eagles quickly gained some measure of ascendancy, regularly finding their forwards’ feet and putting Originals defenders under pressure one-on-one. The Originals were getting caught with too many players in front of the ball, giving the Eagles control in the midfield and flanks. It was only thanks to some important last ditch tackles from Crumbs, the Man from Middle Earth and the big Viking that we didn’t go a few goals behind quite quickly.
But eventually the pressure told. A missed clearance allowed an Eagles player to run onto a loose ball and smash it past the Howitzer to give the Eagles the lead. The Originals had also shown a few promising moments, so the goal did little to dampen their spirits. Dunlop was already looking dangerous on the left while the Tailor had already stitched up (get it?) several opponents with his footwork. Consequently, the goal only galvanised them to push harder for an equaliser, which was not long in coming. The powerful legs of Angelina Joely struck a clinical shot inside the near post to level the scores.
The Originals had received a pre-game boost with the return of the Tominator from a bionic ankle injury. Unfortunately he lasted less time than Rebel Wilson on a treadmill (where the main question is what gives up first) and was quickly replaced by the Cookie Monster.
As the half wore on, the Originals began to dominate possession. The defence began to get on top of their direct opponents, with Crumbs beating his man to the ball and restarting our attacks regularly. The Shane Train came on in midfield and had an impact with his speed and ball movement. Both Angelina and the Tailor continued to look dangerous running at the defence, although much like chocolate and vegemite, as good as they were individually they just didn’t combine well together (I don’t understand why people fall for these marketing ploys- it is limited edition because Cadburys knows once people have tasted it, they won’t buy it again). Under extreme pressure, the Eagles dropped most of their players back defensively, but they still countered quickly and dangerously through their skilful forwards. The Beachside defence was holding strong though, winning crucial tackles and getting across to cover for each other when needed.
Near half time, a slide tackle from the Cookie Monster had as much intent to get the ball as a Jordan Lewis spoiling attempt (no doubt Cookie being a good Hawks supporter, he’ll appreciate the comparison) and he was lucky to escape a card, but the resultant free kick was headed away by the defence.
The game was well-balanced at half time with the scores level. Beachside were pressing, but hadn’t found their way through to goal for much of the half, while Eagles were still looking dangerous on the counter. The Howitzer decided the weather was too warm for long sleeves so changed into a short-sleeved top, giving everyone a bit of a gun (or cannon) show.
The second half started well for the Originals. Walker Sandown Ranger (who actually knows what will be in the next Game of Thrones book- aside from the gratuitous nudity and graphic violence that we all know about) came into a defensive midfield role, freeing the Shane Train and the Chad to play more attacking. This coaching masterstroke from the Cookie Monster reaped immediate dividends, with all three involved in the next goal. Walker won an important ball at half way and showed some fancy footwork to evade his opponent before finding Dunlop. Dunlop then passed to the Chad who slid a pass into the Train at the edge of the box. The Train took a touch and smashed an unstoppable shot into the corner of the goal, putting the Originals in the lead.
The Train had a full head of steam by now and was everywhere. He ran onto a chipped through-ball to be one-on-one with the keeper, but this time the keeper was up to the challenge. Not long after he hunted down another through-ball. The Eagles sweeper got there just ahead of him and under extreme Train pressure somehow mis-hit (tried writing that without a hyphen and it just didn’t look right) the clearance to chip his own keeper from outside the box and double the Originals’ lead. It was almost as hard to believe as Nick Maxwell playing over 200 games of AFL.
The defence was extremely impressive in this half. The Viking went everywhere with his man (who happened to be one of best players to have played in the state for some time) while Crumbs and the Man from Middle-Earth won their contests with regularity. The Howitzer was faultless in goals too, coming out (not in the Ian Thorpe-way) with confidence and stopping everything hit at him. The Beard had come into defence as well and his passing was instrumental in setting up a lot of attack from defence.
Dunlop continued to terrorise his opponents on the left. He ran goalwards and unleashed a powerful shot that the keeper could only parry. The Cookie Monster was first on the scene to tap in the rebound for what he described as, “The most skilful goal of the game,” from about one metre out.
You had to give credit to the Eagles players’ endeavour. They fought back hard, continuing to play out to their strikers and working hard defensively. As one observer pointed out, they would not have fit in at Carlton with that kind of work ethic. This was never more obvious than two of them took each other out in their attempts to tackle JC.
Walker Sandown Ranger took exception to one opponent and a scuffle ensued. The world cowered in fear that he would unleash a roundhouse kick with the force of twenty-seven nuclear bombs that could cover the world in a cloud of dust and usher in a new Ice Age (This is a Doomsday scenario the pentagon has been worrying about known as WAD or Walker Assured Destruction). Thankfully the gathering storm clouds quickly cleared as the Sandown Ranger calmed himself and everyone took a relieved breath.
JC continued to attack down the wing too and was desperately unlucky not to score when he was cockblocked by a goal line clearance (I hope that isn’t reflective of the poor boy’s work off the pitch). On the other flank, Dunlop looked weary (get it?) but continued to threaten to the final whistle.
No surprise to see the Snickers Award going to the Sandown Ranger after his uncharacteristic and momentary descent into the red mists, but for the most part the game was played in excellent spirits.
BOG was a tough one today. The backline and keeper were all very good, while the Train was electric (and you thought I’d run out of puns) in the second half. For me, Crumbs takes it out though. He was very important in the early part of the game and late when we were under the most pressure, but was excellent throughout. He was rarely beaten by opponents, often getting in front and intercepting passes, as well as using the ball intelligently himself.