Contributed by: Brett NortheyThe China Blues chalked up their first win on foreign soil during the Asian AFL Championships in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on Saturday 31st July. It had been a long time between drinks with their only other win being at home versus Japan on November 6th 1999 in their debut match. Rather than an overall match report, we have an interesting account from some of the players involved. Hopefully we'll have a full tournament run down shortly.
Australian Rules football has come a long way around the world in the last 10 years, with many leagues now formed, featuring primarily locals. But it must be recognised that in most cases, the leagues grew from small groups of expatriate Australians, longing to play the game they love. The China Blues were formed from such (primarily) Australians, and in the following story, two members of that team report on a classic Aussie expat road trip. In general we will give greater precedence to leagues featuring locals, but this story is no doubt typical of Australian Rules' first forays into new lands. Hopefully these trailblazers will be the founders of another Australian football dynasty, going on to develop local talent, as has happened so well in Japan. If not, well, it sounds like they're having a good time. Report from Julian "Rooster" Clark and Nigel Godde. Andrew Sawitsch assisted with compiling. Note that Japan did not attend the tournament, possibly due to Narita Cup and Australian tour committments.
Julian: After being donutted at the Asian AFL Championships in Singapore 2002 and again in Hong Kong 2003, the mighty China Blues were ecstatic to record their first win in this, the most prized tournament in Asia - and we intend to improve next year with a Championship Final berth when the 2005 Asian AFL Championships come to Shanghai.
In summary, the China Blues were soundly beaten in our first 2 matches by traditional Asian powerhouses: the Indonesian Bintangs and the Singapore Wombats. We felt that we had our best chance against the Thailand Tigers but unfortunately we let this opportunity go begging. It wasn't until our last chance for the day against the hosts, the Malaysian Warriors, that the China Blues put it all together for a historic victory.
Below is a tournament report from Nigel Godde.
Well what a week it has been in football! On Sat the 31st of July the Asian Australian Football League Championships were held in Kuala Lumpur. China was well represented with the majority of the side made up of Shanghai Tigers players, and ex Chinamen coming from as far and wide as Germany, Australia and Singapore.
The Shanghai based China Blues players made their way down to KL Thursday evening to 'acclimatise' to the conditions and to meet up with their fellow "Chinese representatives" that flew in from around the globe. The plane trip was a hell of an experience and most players almost reclaimed their 2000rmb ticket in drinks. The plan to isolate Will Leaf in the back of the plane away from the rest of the players to keep him under control failed and we were soon greeted by a Bacardi swilling trouble maker who had become quite friendly with the drinks waiter. Brendan and Mic being older and more responsible took him under their wing and guided him further into trouble.
Once we arrived in KL to our Hotel around 11pm the conditions were more difficult then expected and coach Godde called for a several extra hours of acclimatising after midnight to ensure all players were ready. Will Leaf found the conditions especially difficult and had to resort to taking frequent dips in the pool at a local establishment. Will also insisted that the manager of the establishment joined him for a dip, unfortunately Will did not give the Manager an opportunity to remove his glasses or mobile phone, however he did make amends by retrieving the items from the bottom of the pool and returning them safely back before the police arrived.
After further encouragement from tour sponsors ANZ and Macquarie in the form of refreshments the team responded and took their acclimatising to a new level and pushed on to the wee hours. Returning home in time to help the hotel staff set up for breakfast, with Michael Pross lending a hand to cook omelettes.
Friday's pool recovery session was planned for the late afternoon so that players could squeeze in a bit of sightseeing, however nobody took advantage of this and stayed in bed to the late afternoon, obviously conscious of saving there legs for Saturdays games, coach Godde was duly impressed by the players commitment.
A light recovery session was followed by a jumper presentation with tour and major club sponsor Jock McGregor from ANZ presenting the jumpers to the players. A team meal was enjoyed by all Friday evening before meeting all the other sides that were just arriving. We retired relatively early for the evening (compared to the night before) in readiness for the big day.
All team members met at breakfast on Sat morning looking resplendid in their official China, ANZ, Bluescope, Steinlarger tour shirts (thanks to Rossco who designed and produced these). There was an air of excitement around the place with all the other sides present as well All teams heading for the buses at 7am only to find out that it's not only China that struggles with organisation, so at 8am we were finally on our way to the ground. The weather unfortunately was not kind to the organisers over the previous week and the overnight rain was enough to make the conditions very heavy.
All 7 teams assembled for a stirring rendition of the Australian National Anthem and then it was game on for the start of the Champs. China was scheduled for the 3rd match of the day, so the Coach took the opportunity for a sound warm up and tactics session. It was soon our turn to show our stuff and we were drawn to face the Indonesian Bintangs who are the only side to have won the tournament twice so it was always going to be an uphill battle. After 5 mins into the first half on a very wet ground, it was very obvious that the tactics worked out by Coach Godde were useless and were therefore abandoned. The team then knuckled down to desperate wet weather footy which suited pommy Ben and Nick's soccer slide tackles perfectly. Unfortunately the Bintangs were able to replace tired players often from their huge selection and run over us in the end by a few goals. Best players Richard David who was desperately holding the back line together like an old General, Will Leaf and Mic Mittasch also battled hard.
Next game was against Singapore Wombats who ran out on the ground with enough players to field 2 sides. We found the going tough from the start and never really threaten the skillful Wombats despite the efforts of Will Leaf in the middle who was knocking up getting kicks, Cameron Hume, Hamish Hogben, Mic Mittasch and big Rooster were also among our best. Luckily we were able to score to escape the need to drop our tweeds.
After 2 hard fought matches against top sides we were a little down on confidence not to mention energy, however with the chance of a victory against Thailand beckoning we responded and were putting in a fine showing in the first half but we just could not convert on the score board. After dominating the play for most of the match, with once again the usual suspects playing well Mic, Will and Hamish along with recruits Jamie and Carl, we let our guard down for a couple of minutes allowing them to score 2 easy goals, one of them a direct result of some undisciplined defence by the coach himself. In the end the game started to become a little heated with a few boys involved in a bit of argey bargey including Rossco who decided to fly the flag for the side. We did kick back at one stage with the play of the day moving the ball quickly from defense down the wing and driving it long to our full forward Brendan who unfortunately was in two minds whether to mark it or let it go through, in the end he decided something in-between and somehow managed to touch the ball with a 'man boob' before it went through for what would have been a certain goal. We never really recovered from this amusing/frustrating episode and unfortunately in the end we went down to a side we really should have beaten.
With one game to play we all came together and decided to throw everything we had into the last game and most importantly enjoy it. From the outset it was clear that everything was falling into place and that this game against the hosts, the Malaysia Warriors would go down in history. The coach once again looked towards his on ball brigade to be the spark and they all responded, especially Will who after a huge knock got to his feet to goal for the side. All the side then responded and lifted accordingly, and down back Richard 'the General' David was rallying his troops for one last dig. The on ballers were on top in the middle while Rooster and coach Godde were looking dangerous up forward. We could have been even further up at half time if it wasn't for the coach missing a sitter undoing his efforts after a good mark and being on the end of a great passage of play by the Rooster and Carl.
At half time the coach asked for one last effort from the boys, he then turned to his elder statesman of the side 'the General' (who at the time was receiving a light cardiac massage) and told him if we were going to win this we needed the backline to stand firm and they must show courage under fire with him leading from the front. The General responded by positioning himself on the full back line like the rock of Gibraltar not letting anything pass and earning himself another nickname as Mr Reliable from the commentators, he was helped out by Mic and Brendan who had rebounded from his earlier indescretion .Then it was the forwards turn to respond with the onballers driving into attack little Carl pulled off a great tackle and was awarded the free kick as the ball spilled free and coach Godde swooped on the advantage play like a seagull on a potato chip, surged forward and from 45m (or was it 30) drove it straight through the middle sending the boys into a frenzy. After this it was the back lines turn again to close out the game and lead us to a historic victory, for the first time ever China had won a game in the Asian champs. I have been involved in a lot of Grand final victories before and I have to say the victory cerebrations of this one game came close to anything experienced before. Celebration for China peaked while everyone else was watching the grand final when we stole the cup and managed to get many team photos thanks to our resident official team photographer/runner Michael Pross.
After an eventful bus ride back to the hotel the party went on well into the night at the official tournament function and then out into the streets of KL the only thing that eventually stopped us was the thought of the 6am bus to the airport. All in all I think it is fair to say to that everyone had a great time and enjoyed being part of a little bit of history with China's first victory in the Asian Champs. A special thanks to the Malaysian boys for putting on a very professional and well run event.
Just a few votes of thanks to our tour sponsors Richard David / Macquarie, Jock McGregor/ANZ bank and Michael Pross/ St Regis Hotel, your sponsorship is very much appreciated by me and the whole team and it certainly was one of the main reasons we had such a fantastic time.
Special thanks to Jock for being team manager and property steward for the weekend. Michael Pross for being the runner and official photographer. It's a great effort for you boys to join us and we couldn't have done it without you both.
A quick thanks to Declan who dropped everything on Friday afternoon and made his way to KL to surprise us. A huge effort Declan and well appreciated by us all.
Last but certainly not least a big thanks to Ross McGregor for organising the air fares at such a fantastic rate that it made affordable for all. For the tour shirts that made sure we were the most easily identified team, I think all the boys enjoyed these and got plenty of wear out of them, in fact some of the boys got too much wear out of them and were in desperate need of a wash. Also for all the other behind the scenes work that you help me with.
Cheers, Nigel Godde (Captain/Coach China)
Go you mighty China Blues / Wo men Zhong Guo Lan...
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