The morning began as frosty and unfriendly as the welcome for Gillian Triggs would be at a Liberal Party function, although by the time the game was due to start, the sun had begun to come out with the same sheepishness as Ian Thorpe.
The Originals were still missing Mr Lineker and JC was also absent. Knowing that JC would not be there to save us was tough for the devout amongst us, but we were bolstered by some reinforcements. Joining the Originals this week were the Gasman (who actually showed up early, which is almost unheard of for any gasman in my experience), The HJ Holden and Ryan Thurleg or Thurdleg (I never saw the team sheet and I’m just gonna call him the Tripod from now on anyway). FFT were also a little underprepared for the game and had been unable to organise a ref, so Beachside club stalwart and all round nice guy, The Hoff, came along to take control of proceedings.
This gave them one of their largest teams on paper but the Tominator and the Chad were both running late, so they were lucky to start with a full team. It was obvious from the start that weather conditions were going to affect the game. The lashing wind was whipping across the ground hard enough to make Christian Grey give up in embarrassment, and the Originals started off playing into what would be considered a six goal wind in AFL terms (or just ‘unplayable’ in golf).
Playing to the conditions, the Originals kept the ball on the ground where possible and moved the ball well with simple passes to feet. TV Week and Dunlop Volley were finding plenty of space out wide, while the Gasman was energetic and HJ Holden provided the engine in midfield (the awful puns are by no means finished there). The Tripod showed impressive balance and footskills, regularly having a leg taken but maintaining his feet (advantage of being a tripod I suppose). Having seen the effect of the wind, the Howitzer was playing the ball out with short goal kicks and rolling the ball when he took it by hand.
By contrast the Knights’ team was keen to play more direct soccer, kicking long to their forward targets. While the wind aided that to some extent, it also carried a number of attempted passes straight on to the Howitzer, or else out for a goal kick. The Originals also had a strong backline in place, with the Beard, the Tominator, the Svengali and Crumbs turning defence into attack with the regularity of Bronwyn Bishop rorting electoral expenses.
Early in the half, Cookie ran onto a cross from the Tripod, controlling it down and slotting it past the keeper. Despite no flag being raised the knights’ defence called for offside with the misplaced certainty of an anti-vaccer. In the wind it was a little hard to make out what TV Week, who was running the line, was saying about it so the Hoff called it offside and disallowed the goal. TV Week later told us he could see clearly and there was no offside, so Cookie had every right to be as righteously angry as Jimmy Barnes would be about the Racists playing his songs at Reclaim Australia rallies, but the Originals took it one chin and just pressed on.
After a deflected clearance by the Beachside defence, the Knights won a corner in the bottom corner (oddly enough) of the field. Concerned about the movement of the ball in the wind, the Originals packed their defence for the set piece and then watched in relief as the ball was kicked high into the wind, where it turned more sharply than Bill Shorten on asylum seeker policy and ended up going almost over the kicker’s head.
Half time saw the score still nil-all and the weather slowly worsening so both teams agreed to a quick break and getting straight back into the game.
The Originals started the second half brightly, locking the ball in the forward half and attempting to unlock a packed defence with some crisp passing play. The Chad, The Gasman and The Tripod were combining dangerously in midfield and keeping the goalkeeper busy. The Knights continued to hit long balls, which were now holding up better for their strikers, but continued to be well covered by the defence, which now had HJ Holden providing additional grunt and drive back there.
Midway through the half, the Chad went into a challenge from an awkward position. With hindsight, it was difficult to see how he expected to come out if it uninjured and he hobbled off shortly after, not to return to the field of play.
A few minutes later, Captain Cookie had lost two players, as his lovechild, Crumbs, took a head knock and was subbed off as well. Even with an injury, the little Cookie continued to yell encouragement and instructions to his team mates from the bench- just like big Cookie would have.
Despite early dominance of the half, Beachside were struggling to find a likely avenue to goal as the half wore on. The team’s form and synergy fell away quicker than Kirsten Dunst’s career after the Spiderman movies and their opponents began to exert themselves back into the game.
The Knights almost took a shock lead 15 minutes from the end, when a defender slipped, leaving the striker to advance on goal with only the keeper to beat. The Howitzer came to the rescue, coming out quickly and shutting down the angle so that the pressured shot was less accurate than Belle Gibson’s autobiography.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the Originals pressed on with renewed energy. Dunlop Volley was fed a clever throughball by the Tripod and he ran onto it but was just pushed wide as he took control. He crossed the ball back across but the compact Knights’ defence dealt with the danger.
The Tripod made another run through midfield. He evaded a couple of tackles and struck a bouncing shot from distance that slipped inside the left hand post and gave the Originals a deserved lead.
The Boss put another ball down the line for Dunlop Volley and the resultant deep cross cleared the defence and keeper, sitting invitingly for TV Week to attack. It dropped at the last moment, giving him the awkward choice between a low header or a high volley. TV Week went with the header but pushed it wide of the near post.
In the final minutes of the game a free kick was given away by the Originals deep in their defence. The ball was floated into the penalty box, where the Howitzer, who has been playing with notably more authority in recent weeks, came out hard and punched it clear. The final whistle blew soon after, giving the Originals a well-deserved victory in difficult conditions.
BOG for the match was a tight one with all members of the reliable defence putting in an excellent display in difficult circumstances really all players giving a good account of themselves. In the end it went to someone who would be receiving it two weeks in a row if I hadn’t been too lazy to write a report of last week’s game. The Howitzer is in the midst of some possibly career-best form and today kept what I think might have been our first clean sheet in the last two years. Even though there were times were the Originals dominated, the Knights were quick to counterattack, and the big unit had to be at his best on a number of occasions to stifle scoring attempts.
The Snickers award went to the Knights’ Goalkeeper who turned up late after celebrating his 50th birthday the night before was clearly not feeling himself. Still plenty of respect to the guy for showing up and giving his all anyway.