Footy hasn’t finished for the Year. It’s just starting up … in the Middle East!

By Russell Yule

Sure, most of the football community is depressed with the thought of facing the next four months with Collingwood as Premiers. Well here is an opportunity to move on. Get on board the AFL-Middle East bandwagon. Be amongst those up the front driving it, rather than on the wagon part! Your humble correspondent will bring you the season through the eyes of not very impartial observer. (I am a founder member of the Abu Dhabi Falcons, although no longer playing due to being too old, too slow and too smart to run around in the heat. I will be carrying out the Chief Waterboy duties for all the games I can get to).

Footy in the Middle East has a few obvious differences with the game that most of you are familiar with. To start with accessing an oval shaped field is not easy. Games are played on either soccer (I’ll stop calling it soccer when they stop calling them tackles) or rugby pitches. (Which makes the pockets as deep as a Scots! It’s alright, my Grandmother is Scottish…) Goals and behinds can only be scored of the shot or mark is taken from inside a 35m arc. As the area is reduced we play 9-a-side (3 forwards, 3 mid-fielders, and 3 defenders) on the field with up to 9 on the bench. The numbers become important when the temperature is taken into account. At the bounce right on 4pm, it was 37 and by 6 it was down to a “cool” 31. It is a very dry heat too. After about 5 minutes of running, your throat is as dry as a dead camel’s proverbial. (While the last comment was not alliterationally correct it is culturally appropriate given; a) the country and b) the fact that the other Dubai team is the Dingoes and I wouldn’t want to get them offside).

On Friday the 22nd, the Abu Dhabi Falcons travelled to Dubai for their first game of the 2010-2011 Middle East AFL season. The game, at the Dubai 7s Complex was hosted by the Dubai Dragons, who the previous year had come within one goal of defeating the Falcons in what was effectively a Qualifying Final for the season as both teams were playing for the right to face The Heat in the GF. With the demise of The Heat, the Premiership has been opened up somewhat. Dubai Dingoes were off to Bahrain to face The Blues and Muscat went to Doha to play the Kangaroos. All teams in the comp were pretty keen to start off the season with a win.

The Dragons vs Dubai game kicked off in hot dry conditions, (surprise). The Falcons ran with the wind which was angling about 45 degrees across the pitch to the Eastern end. The rucks were evenly matched throughout the game with no-one consistently bringing the ball directly to the rovers. However the Falcons, having picked up Adam ‘Trigger” Trzesinski , (quite handy as he shared the 2009-2010 Player of the Season with Abu Dhabi’s Ben Williams, who has moved back to Australia) working in tandem with the ‘Cattle Dog’ Mick Molnar, managed to get the ball forward more effectively to score the first two goals.

The rest of the quarter was very much evenly matched. Neither side was able to get the ball into the scoring zone with fluency and defenses for both sides dominated. The flukey wind made long shots a tricky proposition, especially from the non-scoring side. And that’s where the ball was most of the time. I can’t recall too many throw-ins from the outer during the whole game. The Dragons managed to goal about midway through and that was the end of scoring majors. Quarter time saw the Falcons holding a hard earned one goal lead.

The second quarter was fairly similar. Falcons scored early then followed periods of parity. The Dragons had opportunities to move the ball forward, although often succumbed to perceived pressure as they fumbled when clean hands would have got the ball away. This was really the crucial part of the game. Falcon players were chasing even when it appeared futile, leading to turnovers and if not, at least a ball-up. With the small field and the relatively few numbers, turnovers are a killer. One good kick from defense can quickly result in a shot at goal at the other end. The quarter saw the Falcons kick 5 goals 3 into the wind, while the Dragons kicked 2 goals 1. The score at the break was 7 goals 5 behinds (47) to 3 goals 3 behinds (21).

Niggling at the back of the mind, was the memory of the last game, when the Dragons came back after looking like they were gone. Coach Brooke (Broke), playing as there was no back up ruckman, despite a thigh injury which prevented him from actually putting on or tying his own boots, called for a consistent display for the remaining quarters. And that’s what he got.

The Falcons managed another 5 goal quarter with the wind to stretch the lead. Abu Dhabi was most able to find the player with time and space to use the ball most effectively. For mine, the highlight of the third quarter, was Plugger holding his throat and calling for assistance with a voice like Darren Lockyer. As Chief Waterboy, I raced in his direction fearing a collapsed adam’s apple from the recent contest. Turned out he had swallowed a fly and was just gagging…

In the final quarter, the heat took its toll on everyone’s fitness, which combined with both teams running out of water, led to crucial mistakes as the chase back became beyond difficult. Abu Dhabi kicked 3 goals, one from a great contested mark by Plugger controlling the ball with one hand and diving to take it inches off the ground while under a fair bit of “defensive pressure”. Dubai held their own in the final quarter although were not able to kick accurately enough to make an impact on the scoreboard. In the end a 10 goal win did not reflect the closeness of the contest, as much as the ability to get the ball to the most dangerous option at crucial times.

Pleasing for the Falcons was the debut performances of all new to the club. Plugger picked up a lazy 7 goals with more than a few contested marks, but more importantly chasing more than his illustrious namesake ever did. ‘Trigger’ had a big impact on the game early, setting up many a goal with the silky skills you would expect of a Norwood boy. Jay, Gareth and Will shone in defense minimising easy marks and shots at goal, creating a few goals from, dare I say, stalwart efforts. And the well travelled Jimmy Coyne showed his experience, (Irish bloke who played in a USA AFL Grand Final) to contribute well as a midfielder. Mick Day didn’t get many opportunities, but has a good turn of speed to do what is needed at the time. Stu also had a good run as a mid-fielder and occasional defender, also using his speed to find space and be an effective link man particularly in the second half when his fitness levels allowed him to keep going that little bit longer. Despite the loss of quite a few gun players, if anything, the Falcons new blood has added to the balance of the team.

The seasoned campaigners all put their hand up in what was a solid team effort. Big Jim Hanusek sound at fullback. Johnny O’Neill, our Taigh Kennelly in almost all ways, (he’s Irish, can run, can find the ball, although he’s different because he can’t kick straight for all the sand in the Empty Quarter!), had a few shots in the last two quarters to notch up two points and an out of bounds on the full. Back to kicking school for you! Mick Molnar came into his own in the second half, consistently getting to the ball first, and if not preventing the Dragons from moving it on. Mark Deverall and Dan Brooke broke even in the ruck and formed a formidable wall in the middle of the ground. Matt Wood, the only Foundation player, lead out like a demon from CHF and was rewarded with 3 goals. The laconic Matt “One Touch” Brunsdon lived up to his name, casually moving around the mid-field and defense racking up possessions. (He also managed a win in the ‘hit the crossbar’ challenge at training, although there were some uncharacteristic fumbles mixed in as well).  As stated, a consistently solid team effort across the board, with no single player really standing out as everyone had a pretty good crack.

Best for the Dragons were Shane Fyfe, Luke Hopman and Ben Leaver. Dean Vaughan and Michael ‘Spider’ Ashton were also noted as Honourable Mentions. Apologies for the lack of details here, I wasn’t planning on writing a match report. Rocket Rod Gillett is the usual correspondent and he hasn’t been seen since the Saints lost the GF. Yes, it was that depressing…

The game was played in a good spirit. There were a few moments that could have led to something, but cool heads prevailed. Much the same could be said for the after match function at ‘BidiBondis’ on the Palm. A very nice little beach style pub, which had a ‘Byron Bay’ kind of vibe to it. Despite the dry game conditions, few made the effort to drink like camels. The intensity of the game tilted the drinking effort to more subtle rehydration.  While the servings of chicken parma and fish and chips proved that excess in Dubai is not limited to shopping malls. In short, a good time was had by all. I for one, hope the Dragons can put on future after match drinks there. Of course anywhere that puts a free round of drinks on the table will get the same endorsement…

Results for the other games, Bahrain Blues went down by 11 points to the Dubai Dingoes. And Oman Magpies beat the Doha Kangaroos by 40 points. Interesting in that all the away teams picked up the points. The next has the Falcons playing host to the Dubai Dingoes on the 12th of November. Might have to break out the camera for that one, as the boys are committing to another Movember with gusto. Feel free to commit your hard-earned to our Movember team; the “Dish-Taches” . Details to follow on the donation process.

About Russell Yule

Indogus is the alter ego of Russell Yule. He has retired more times than actually played games, although is completely retired now in order to live vicariously through his children's sporting proclivities. Given any available space in a conversation, he will regale you with boring stories about his exploits with the Bali Geckos or Abu Dhabi Falcons, of which he is extremely proud.

Comments

  1. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says:

    On ya Gus!

    Great to read another perspective, well done mate.

    Go the Falcons!

  2. He lives!

    We’ve missed you Rocket.

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