Contributed by: Tobietta Rhyman
On the 17th of March was AFL England Central-North West League’s St Patrick’s Day tournament, hosted by the Manchester Mosquitoes at their home ground in Burnage. Six teams participated in the event, with the hosts facing off against teams from Sheffield, Huddersfield, Nottingham, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
WFN managed to catch up with the Huddersfield Rams before the tournament, and Sheffield Thunder's coach afterwards.
Firstly Huddersfield. “The lads are shaping up well. There are lots of new guys in the team, so as long as they’re competitive, it will be a good chance for them to get some experience,” coach Neil Morrison explained. “The Rams were runners up in the league last year to Nottingham and we’ll be playing them first so it’s a bit of a grudge match. If no-one gets injured and everyone has a good time it will be a good day for us.”
Player of the Tournament Votes:
1st place Alastair Lindop (Manchester Mosquities) with 8 votes
2nd place Tim Smith (Birmingham Bears) with 6 votes
3rd place joint Dave Veale (Birmingham Bears) with Garth Nevin (Sheffield Thunder) both with 5 votes
WFN caught up with the Sheffield Thunder after the finals:
“I’m proud of the team,” coach Nick Heath said after the game. “There were a lot of new guys on the team and I’m proud of their efforts. It was good of the Mozzies to organise the competition and it’s good to be here. We were a bit disappointed - we wanted to win, but the signs are there for a pretty good season. We gave the other guys a bit of a run and it was a good effort by the boys to get to the finals. The final was pretty even. The boys were cramping up and they had a long break before the match. But I asked the lads to keep pushing and I’m proud them - it was a good effort.”
And this is what the coach of the Manchester Mosquitoes, Chris Sproule (pictured below), had to say on winning the competition as he was presented with the Pre-Season Cup:
“Firstly, thanks to Sheffield! There were so many games today and everyone in the squad played their part. It’s a great day for footy!”
The Mosquitoes had home advantage and after being defeated by Leeds Minotaurs at the charity Movember Cup, came out with something to prove. And this they did, successfully defeating rivals Nottingham to take on Sheffield in the finals, and coming though the competition unbeaten to get their hands on the pre-season cup. With a healthy squad size and a fair selection of talent to rotate between, they outperformed their opponents in every way and will surely be the team to beat coming into the 2012 season.
Sheffield were also a very strong team on the day and had also managed to bring a large squad down. They proceeded to surge through their opponents and were the only other unbeaten team going into the finals. However, after a very close and evenly fought out finals, they eventually went down to the unbeaten Manchester Mosquitoes. The Thunder are definitely shaping up to be a powerhouse and if they continue this form into the season, are definite contenders for the league.
Despite only turning up with minimal numbers, the Bears played exceedingly well despite the extra pressure on their players and managed to comfortably ease into third place. Though they missed out on a finals spot, in the end the Bears only lost to the two top teams on the day, and neither were walkovers. In contrast, they demolished the weaker teams and definitely showed that they are by no means a mid-table outfit coming into the start of the season.
The Rams certainly looked a strong outfit coming into this competition and had a few members to spare due to the amalgamation with the remnants of the folded North-East league’s players. Unfortunately, they were hampered by injuries throughout the day and by the time the final game came around, the remaining players were simply exhausted. Despite this, the Rams still managed to put on an honourable performance, and with a few weeks still remaining to sort out the majority of Saturday’s problems, it’s likely that a very different Huddersfield team will be making its appearance when the league games start.
Last year’s champions and the team to beat with Leeds Minotaurs not making an appearance, it was a very disappointing performance from the Nottingham lads. They were comfortably defeated by every team except the young and inexperienced Wolverines, though lack of numbers most certainly had a hand in this. Hopefully there’s more back in Nottingham where that came from and the Scorpions can once again put on a show for 2012.
Despite being the envy of many other clubs for their ability to build up from grassroots level, the Wolverines remain a club full of young and inexperienced players. Talent-wise the team has developed considerably since their last stint in November, and they remain the CNW League’s “watch-this-space” club, though it might take longer that the upcoming season to develop their potential.
Photos from the day's competition:
World Footy News