Bulldogs bite Peace Team with silky skills
Thursday, August 28 2008 @ 02:30 pm ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
Amongst a media scrum never before seen at the International Cup, it seemed everyone had come to see the Peace Team play but it was Great Britain who impressed on the field, giving a hint that they may have stepped up a level since 2005.
The new men on the block were reasonably impressive early, with an attack on the ball that made life difficult for the Brits. As with several other new footy nations, this competitiveness could not be sustained, and slowly the Bulldogs drew away.
Mostly the game was played in GB's forward half despite them being into the breeze. Eoin O'Connor jumped well to haul in a good mark, with ground commentator "Grilla" describing it as a case of "telescopic arms". At quarter time it was 3.3 (21) to 0.1 (1), and the question was whether the Peace Team could continue their efforts. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Israelis and Palestinians on the day was not Great Britain but escaping from their quarter time huddle, such was the press of media scribes, cameramen and audio booms that surrounded them. Perhaps they would've been better staying there, as the Brits piled on the pain booting a further 5.7 (37) to zip.
The injury toll steadily mounted for the Peace Team, and by the end of the match it looked like they truly had been in a war zone. The amount of ice might have made the Finland squad feel at home and the Peace Team players will now have learnt one of Australian football's great lessons - you have to be able to play whilst carrying injuries and feeling sore, and you have to keep backing up for one another - if they can keep doing that then by the end of this experience they will truly have bonded and learnt to fully respect each other, carrying a life long connection.
The crowd did fall silent when Naseem Almanasra received a heavy blow and the stretcher was called. It was precisely what we did not want to see at the Cup, but happily he was just badly winded and returned to the field later in the game, no doubt earning the respect of his team-mates.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the day for the Peace Team was their last quarter goal, their first official goal in international competition. The crowd roared their delight as is always the way in Australia when the underdog has success. But Great Britain were the real on-field success of the day, showing much cleaner, natural skills than in earlier tilts.
Particularly impressive was the way the Bulldogs played on regularly from marks, linking up with handballs and generally playing a far more instinctual game than what we saw in 2005. It remains to be seen whether this can be replicated against the better sides which will apply a lot more pressure, but as they say, all you can do is beat your opponent on the day and certainly Round 1 was impressive by the Poms.
Running a more critical eye over proceedings was GB team manager Martin Smith. Although overall very happy with his side's style, he said the coaching staff were concerned they were "losing shape" going forward, too often bombing the ball forward to "kick the ball down their (the opposition's) throat". The Bulldogs' hierarchy was also quick to move their lads away from the Peace Team media and hype once the game was over, to quickly get their minds back on the job as they know much greater challenges lie again.
That starts in Round 2 with Nauru who should prove to be a mighty test, while the Peace Team faces another 100+ point loss, this time to PNG. Let's hope the media throng are still around when they get some easier matches in the seeding/finals rounds next week.
Goal Kickers: A. Dillane 4, E. O'Connor 3, S. Wood 3, A. Swift 3, E. Doe 2, B. Malone, A. Bennett, J. Ford, D. Holland, R. Lucas
Best Players: A. Dillane, R. Lucas, J. Sharpe, J. Boyle, G. Tuffin, E. O'Connor
Goal Kickers: M. Lagisa
Best Players: Y. Belik, D. Haim, K. Kol, N. Almanasra, F. Swaitti, K. Nafte
|Great Britain||Peace Team|
|3.3 (21)||1/4||0.1 (1)|
|8.10 (58)||1/2||0.1 (1)|
|15.12 (102)||3/4||0.2 (2)|
|20.15 (135)||Full||1.2 (8)|