Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
With the early afternoon sun at McAlister oval nudging the temperature around and over 20C – the Canadian Northwind lined up ready to face the Tongan Storm in the 5th v 6th battle to decide the Division 1 premier. With a negligible breeze from the south aiding the Tongans it was the Northwind that looked sharpest from the outset.
Perhaps the greatest highlight of the game was one of the earliest when Adam “Nashy” Nash (#7) levered his legs into his opponent and took the almost horizontal speccie from behind – directly in front – (not as contradictory as it sounds) ; and went back and converted. A couple of minutes later he was perhaps unlucky not to be paid a similar attempt in the goal square but shortly after (#19) Nathan Miller marked an errant soccered kick out of the last line of defence by Tonga. Again – the kick was true and Canada had raced to a 2 goal lead.
With big Neil Casey (#1) on top both in the ruck and around the ground, marking just about everything – and the courageous Duggan (#3) and Ortel (#9) getting into the game at ground level the Canadians were controlling play. However 3 successive behinds ensued and Tonga hadn’t been put away early. However the Storm only managed a behind of their own before (#8) Nathan Strom managed an opportunist goal crumbing the spoil from Tongan #1 on the dangerous Nash.
At the first break the Northwind had established a very handy 20 point ascendancy – perhaps it should have been more. #44 Mike Kolwinski had been working hard across high half forward while the Canadian defence had the Storm forwards pretty well in hand.
Anyone might think the city end was the attacking end as the Storm were a totally different team from the outset of the 2nd term. Their intensity at the ball and the opposition had been turned up several notches and the Northwind now were under pressure, and the ball was spending most its time in the Tongan half. Some of the smaller members were the keys as the ground level effectiveness through #14 up field and #20 inside the forward 50 saw Tonga wresting control in general play. An early miss but then a partially controversial free kick to the Tongan #20 in the goal square paid against the Northwind defender for walking the ball over the goal line. It was probably correct and the Storm had their first major on the board. Shortly after #20 was again in the midst and was caught high in the act of kicking and drew the free – and kicking from the arc managed to clear the line for the 2nd Tongan goal. A quick snap from #7 was off target – but now just 6 pts in it and definitely game on. It was Canada’s turn to attack against the trend and like Tonga in the first, came up short with just a behind when the snap by (#20) Clay Lund went wide. Tonga rebounded rapidly and when the long kick sailed into an open forward line it was Canada’s (#26) Andy Yardy who won the footrace back and screwed the ball back towards the railway side boundary. Tonga again won the ball but a shot went near side out on the full, and Northwind’s Casey took the strong mark as he worked to regain his impact on the game. Again though Tonga attacked and #16 marked and with the aid of a 25m was kicking from the arc but again wasteful as he kicked into the man on the mark. Canada defended toward the boundary and would have been hopeful to lock it in but the ball came out the back and Tonga’s (#18) Fakatoumafi took possession being all over 190 cm and 125 kgs – it was going to take a great tackle to stop him – not quite forthcoming – and under duress he was able to get boot to ball and split the middle. Suddenly a 1 point ball game. That would be the half time margin.
Certainly a tale of two quarters to this point – Tonga having reined their way back into the contest and Canada suddenly looking harassed and perhaps tiring in the Melbourne late August warmth. The Canadians head for the shade of a marquee for the long break.
The third term scoring began with a clumsy late bump on Tonga’s #8; the subsequent downfield free taken by (#6) Rodney Pita from the top of the goal square to give Tonga the lead for the first time. Canada responded though with the quick answer – a free kick from a pack in the forward pocket saw (#9) Justen Ortel breaking clear running in with the advantage to slam it through to regain the lead. Shortly after a marking duel saw most attention on the Umpire who got taken out – but, part of the action saw a free kick paid to Canada’s (#8) Strom and with another safe short at goal. Canada should have been further in front when Ortel from 25m out directly in front put the ball into the man on the mark. Perhaps this was a spark for the Tongan’s who again lifted their workrate and pushed forward again finding (#15) Havea who marked a fair way out near the railway side boundary. Perhaps lacking a sense of urgency he lined up – the kick looked cramped and the umpire had the explanation – the defender had encroached the mark. Take 2 with a 25m penalty but the kick went behind the post. Shortly after though Havea had another chance receiving a handball and snapping from the front of goals. 5.4.34 apiece. It was to be Canada though who finished the quarter the stronger. Canada went forward and scrambled a behind but then a free to (#20) Lund who kicked accurately from a tight angle in the forward pocket.
Perhaps the biggest controversy happened to round out an eventful quarter. A free kick downfield was earned by the gutsy Ortel (#9) who cleared from defensive side of centre – the ball ended up with (#44) Kolwinski but he was too far out. Looking to play on as the siren went it appeared even the chance of a long shot after the siren was off the books – however back near where the free had occurred a brain fade by Tongan #12 drew a yellow card and the umpires ruled that a 25m penalty be applied where the ball was – and so, Kolwinski had the ball in hand, the siren gone – and very much within range. The kick was true and Canada took a crucial 13 point lead into the last break.
The Tongan’s weren’t spent yet and hit back early despite being 1 man down for the first 10 minutes due the yellow card. A long shot from (#6) Pita after intercepting a dangerous defensive kick hacked across the ground – cleared the goal line with the aid of a fair shepherd. Back to 7 points but that would be as close as Tonga got. With big Casey back in command the Canadian’s got back on top – no doubt the 1 extra on the field helped and they were able to create an effective ‘wall’ to continuously repel the Tongan clearances and send Canada back into attack. Tonga though were unlucky when a hands in the back marking attempt saw Nash take a free for Canada – it was hands in the back of a teammate – however Nash missed. Another miss stretched the lead back to 9 points and then a free to Nash who converted from just inside the arc and Canada were 15 clear. Tonga needed a reply and they gave themselves again – attacking to the city end it was big (#15) Havea who took a strong mark but pushed his kick just wide. Back up the other end and Canada moved the ball forward around the railway flank and found Nash over the top in the goal square where he kicked the ball into the top deck of the nearby gum trees. The 20 point margin was the equal highest for the day and time was clearly running out. Tonga managed to create a little more scoreboard respectability while #16 marked and gained a 25m and the kick looked good off the boot only to slam into the goal post; and (#6) Pita followed up with his 3rd to bring it back to 13 points – the final margin.
A deserved win by the Northwind who set it up in the first term but were made to fight it out by a Tongan side that can hold their heads high. The 4 goal third term – the premiership quarter – then put the Northwind in the box seat and they were good enough to win it from there. For Tonga at this standard – you just can’t afford to have a player sent off and that definitely hurt them in the last term.The Northwind were presented the Division one trophy on the field post game by Brisbane premiership player Chris Johnson.
|Canada :||3.3||3.4||7.5||9.7 (61)|
Canada: Nash 3, Strom 2, Ortel, Kolwinski, Lund, Millar
Tonga : Pita 3, Havea 2, Mahina, Fakatoumafi
Canada : Casey, Ortel, Nash, Duggan, Singh, Moloney
Tonga : Kisione, Loni, Fukofuka, Mahina, Havea, Halafuka
World Footy News