Contributed by: Ash Nugent Sunday, April 23 2006 @ 12:18 am ACST
Michito Sakaki, the Japanese footballer who played for Essendon in their exhibition game against Sydney earlier in the year, has kicked a goal in only his second match, playing for Wodonga Raiders in the Ovens & Murray Football League (reported by WFN on March 23, Michito goes semi-pro in Australia[*1] ). He has started the season slowly but has shown some promise at this very early stage of his Aussie career.
Unfortunately for Sakaki and his new club, the Raiders have gone down in thir first two matches, firstly to Wodonga by 55 points and then to Lavington by 22 points. Hopefully the Raiders poor form won't have an adverse effect on Sakaki's passion for football, and rather will encourage him to play his best and help get the Raiders on the winners list, and himself a gig with a second-tier Aussie Rules club (VFL, SANFL, WAFL etc.) in the next few years.
The following informal review of Sakaki's first game was contributed to the Big Footy[*2] forum by svalovec:
I headed up to Martin Park in Wodonga on Saturday for Michito Sakaki's first regular season game for the Wodonga Raiders in their local derby with the Wodonga Bulldogs. I missed the first 15 minutes of the first quarter, and unless Michito had a blinding first fifteen minutes he failed to impress. After the first break he had about a quarter and a half of game time. In that time he had, to my count, three (ineffective) possessions, including a kick into the mark, a burst through the centre under pressure and against traffic ending with a shank of a kick that caused a turn over and a handball that ended in a ball up.
In Michito's defence, the game was a very scrappy early season game, and he seemed to be finding space and getting into good positions but the Raiders were almost always under the pump and weren’t getting many clearances (until the start of the last quarter when Michito wasn't on the ground), and he was being played as an outside centre man/small forward. I got the feeling that he would have been better used as the extra in-and-under on-baller that the Raiders really needed. In addition to this he was well tagged for most of the game and was given some pretty close attention by a bigger Bulldogs opponent, Michito handled it pretty well and didn't look intimidated but I don't think he enjoyed the argy-bargy.
It is very early days yet and it will take him a while to fit into the team and adjust to the physical/scrappy nature of country footy, and for the coach to figure out where best to play him. In an earlier practice game for the Raiders he reportedly was among the best, so I guess we will wait and see.
Reports were slightly better from Round 2, with contributor harsh, but fair saying:
Started on the bench, came on at quarter time and had a hand one goal as Raiders got back into the game in the second. He finished with one goal, but was seeing stars in the third quarter when Ben Aalbers met him solidly with a fair hip and shoulder bump. I doubt he got 10 touches, but he and the Raiders were a lot better than round one.
The full thread can be found here[*3] .