Contributed by: Brett Northey
Team Canada broke their 2005 International Cup drought with a comfortable win over the much improved South Africans, although not without a scare in the third quarter. This was despite resting some of their better players such as gutsy midfielder Jason Robinson to give everyone a fair run in the series.
The early match at Optus Oval on Saturday 13th August had slippery conditions early on after overnight rain. The Canadians seemed to adapt better and after a long stalemate Ken Tumak ran onto the ball and kicked truly, the Northwind going in to the first break with an 8 point advantage.
Unlike their previous match they didn't have as many vocal supporters, with probably less than 100 spectators at the ground. This didn't deter the red and whites, as Davis Wells goaled from a free and then his team scored again and a rout was on the cards. Promising ruckman Bryan Mitchell marked well on the lead for South Africa but his kick was a shocker. Top player Steven Malinga marked couragously running back with the flight of the ball in a rare highlight for the Buffaloes in the second quarter. The South African full forward, Willem Jonker, looked promising again and offered many searching leads but delivery was poor. Mitchell was paid a free in the goalsquare and this time kicked straight to look give them some hope - down by 11 points at the half.
A feature of the match was that all field umpires were female. While this was a pleasing sign of the game opening up all the roles to both sexes, it must be noted that there were many more frees paid in the game than normal or would be expected, particularly very soft infringements. Both camps were very frustrated, especially the Canadians who play a strong body game.
In the third quarter Jonker goaled from 50m after another free, and that was the only major for the quarter. It looked like the Canadians were slowing and the Africans getting their game going with more numbers at the ball. After four heartbreaking losses ruining the Canadian's tournament, South Africa's coach Steve Harrison emphasised to his players that their opponents wouldn't believe they could win, and it was up to his team to believe in themselves.
The final quarter of the International Cup for the two teams started with the Canuck up by just 4 points. Their #24 Kevin Minaker was clearing well from halfback with dash, and #9 Rob McElwain marked, cleverly played on and kicked long, but desperate defence rushed a point. It seemed that the Northwind wanted this win badly (their only points coming from a less than satisfying forfeit over Spain). Perhaps South Africa were a little more satisfied with their much improved tournament. With renewed intensity Canada ran hard and dominated the quarter. After no reward for effort, Adrian Lagan snapped the goal that all but sealed a win. South Africa had a few late chances but Canada flooded into defence and when the siren sounded it was an 11 point win to the North Americans.
After the game all the players from both sides gathered in a circle as the South Africans lead them in song. The spirit on display epitomised what has been a sensational tournament and the kind of feeling we hope to see remain a part of international footy as it goes forward and evolves.
Canada 4.5 (29)
South Africa 2.6 (18)
World Footy News