Monday, May 2, 2011

Wombats defeat Malaysia Warriors to claim 'Changi Cup'

Perhaps it was the Singapore Wombats reputation for being late or the sight of the Sepang Formula One circuit through the bus window, but the first win of the Wombats Malaysian tour came early and was simply arriving at the field alive. There were more than a few anxious moments (observed by the look of mild shock on the players faces), but not even a red light – located on a busy thoroughfare and very red for quite some time -was going to stop the Michael Schumacher inspired bus driver, taking the sweeping corners at break neck speed and having to switch lanes at the last second as inconsiderate drivers used his braking zones to go about their Saturday afternoon outings.

The Malaysian Warriors played host to the warm favourite Wombats, but with new inclusion; 2008 Hawthorn Premiership player and All-Australian Trent Croad in the line-up for the locals, the Warriors might have fancied themselves a little stronger up forward than usual.

Despite my best efforts to escape a backline entrusted with the job of shutting down a retired AFL superstar – who coincidentally would be pulling on the boots at the ripe old age of 31 – after a quick sales pitch by Juzzy and a once over stare down appraisal by assistant coach CK, as the team was read out I took my place on the half-back flank, secretly deciding as I was lining up for the start of the match that I’d play the position to the letter, half-back and the other half wherever I damn well pleased.

The match kicked off and the first centre clearance fell to my soon-to-be-outlawed gloved hands, driving the ball forward for the ‘Bats, the single stat already a vast improvement from my possession-less first half debut earlier in the year. Some tidy work up forward saw a goal on the board and the Singapore side had drawn first blood in the battle for the ‘Changi Cup’. The Warriors hit back quickly winning a centre clearance and lobbing the ball out in front of T.Croad. Despite the desperate attempt of two Wombats, some speed may have been lost by the former Hawthorn great but the strength was still very much apparent as he wrestled free of his minders and stretched out his arms to take a well-contested mark 35 from home on a slight angle. A costly behind was followed shortly by another from Croad as the Wombats responded with a few goals of their own, Brandon ‘Baby Beiber’ Hough dancing his way around his Malaysian defender to kick his first of the afternoon in a performance that would have melted the hearts of every thirteen year old in the vicinity. Despite a superb effort by the Malaysian ruckman the Wombats started to win the contested ball, taking the edge in the centre clearances and peppering their forward end with shots on goal. Rooster was presenting well up front but couldn’t keep the ball wedged between his wings, the 'Bats overusing the ball in front of goal – possibly to build up the supercoach points – and had wasted the momentum early. The Warriors responded with a good passage of play that landed the ball once again in the vice like hands of Croad. His first major keeping the Malaysian team in the match as the first quarter drew to an end, the ‘Bats in control by three goals.

Quarter number two started with the Wombats back six, who had done a solid job of restricting the Warrior forwards to a solitary major, making sure that Croad was well held. The Wombats again took charge of the match, kicking away early under the drive from Taggart and Jezza. Frustration started to show though as the Singapore backline blanketed the Warrior offence keeping them goalless, Croad a spectator as half-time arrived, the Bats leading seven goals to one.

The Warriors battled on in the third term refusing to go quietly. Tempers flared but the ‘Bats continued their domination increasing their lead, Croad doing his best impersonation of Leigh Matthews by running into a goal post and snapping it half. With the game all but over heading into the fourth quarter it was left to the Warriors big ruckman who had been stellar all day to continue the fight for the home side. He and his gallant midfield had been serviceable but were again overwhelmed by the Wombats charge led by Wazza and Taggart – the Singapore Wombats coasting home to record their first win of the touring season to the tune of 12 goals.