Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wombats win epic 'Singapore Showdown' over Sharks

Singapore Wombats and Singapore Sharks go head-to-head
You learn something new every day. Last week I learnt Singapore has TWO football teams. Let me explain: The Wombats have been a Singapore staple for nearly 20 years, but tucked away is another team – the Sharks. The Sharks are predominantly an Auskick group of (many!) kids running around playing footy (very very well I might add). The Sharks ‘Dads’ are their men’s team – it’s kind of football in reverse, instead of a team investing in juniors, juniors have invested in, well, their Dads.

This brings me to the ‘Singapore Showdown’ (Number 2 if I am correct?) . The Wombats have started off the season in impressive fashion dispensing with the HMAS Melbourne Demons by 10+ goals at home, then travelling to Malaysia and giving Trent Croad’s Warriors a 12 goal touch up. The match-up against the Sharks went well last year, the Wombats taking the honours. But for 2011 there was a twist. Some Wombats now have kids running around in the Sharks program, so come Showdown #2, they would be wearing the Green and Gold in a one-off performance.

I took up my now familiar position in the Wombats back six as the game kicked off. The ‘Bats impressive early with plenty of the ball, but once again wasteful up front missing some gettable goals. The Sharks were extremely competitive, but with Big Ben dominating through the midfield a la Dane Swan the Wombats managed to kick away to a small lead. The Sharks may have had a slightly older average age, but it didn’t stop their big guns flying across the packs taking some absolute screamer marks, the Green and Gold guys were well drilled and responded late in the quarter with a couple of their own, the Wombats holding a narrow 4 point lead at the break, 2.6 to 2.2.

Steffo breaking a tackle
It was déjà vu in the second term, Jaco was on fire through the middle for the Wombats with great support from Sammie Brewster and Jezza but just when the Wombats looked as if they might skip away, the Sharks would reel back the deficit, the ‘Bats still in front by 4 points at the half.
Buoyed by the mention in the best players for the Malaysian game the previous week (a huge improvement from my nightmare debut earlier in the year)  I’d racked up a few touches early playing off half-back, the Sharks however had used the ball so well moving into their strong marking forward line our backline were under constant pressure.

The third term kicked off and the Sharks threw down the challenge. Their full-forward was marking well, and by the time he had decided he would run through me and give me an elbow to the face the Sharks were starting to look dangerous. The Wombats frontal pressure was non-existent as the team seemingly coasted along expecting the win to just happen. With some Wombats playing brilliantly in Sharks colours the momentum swung, and at three-quarter-time the game was poised for a huge upset, the Sharks leading by a point, 6.6 to 5.11.

Wombats coach Hotto demanded the ‘Bats dig deep, the bragging rights of an entire country on the line. Moved up front to play as a defensive half-forward in the last quarter I finally escaped the shackles of the backline, the quarter kicking off with both teams trading goals. Still neck and neck the ball was sent forward for the ‘Bats again, the Sharks getting numbers back and attempted to clear the ball. A series of handballs found their way to the Sharks ruckman as he prepared to send the Sharks forward I wrapped the big man up, no free kick but the ball spilled free and the ‘Bats went forward again and managed to squeeze one through, the ‘Bats up by handful of points. Despite both teams having very deep benches there were a lot of tired legs on the field, the Wombats gaining another centre clearance and going forward. The ball bounced deep into the forward pocket, arriving at the same time as two Sharks I threw the ball onto the left boot and sent it to the top of the goal square, a kind bounce and an obliging Wombat made no mistake, the margin slipped out to just over a goal. It was left to Belly to put the icing on the cake, his goal moments later put the game beyond reach of the gallant Sharks, they would go forward late in the quarter and narrowly miss a few chances, eventually falling by 17 points. It was an epic battle, and the second chapter of what will surely be a fierce rivalry for years to come.