International Cup Day Five – Is There Solace in Third Place?

I’ve always thought that third-place playoffs are hard to get into, for the players especially, but also for the spectators. Unless there’s a medal on the line, is there much point?

 

At the round ball World Cup, for example, I couldn’t tell you who came third in any tournament.

 

It’s freezing at Royal Park by the time I arrive to watch the pair of third-place playoffs.

 

The wind is swirling and the rain is coming in sideways. I’m wondering whether there is much point. Not many people would choose to swap British weather for Australian weather, but I suspect the Great Britian girls would take the option right now if they could.

 

Having led Ireland all day in their semi-final, the Swans were overrun in the final quarter. In comparison, their United States opponents were well beaten by Canada.

 

It’s the Brits who have more reason to wonder what might have been, to wonder how it might have felt to run out at Etihad Stadium under a shut roof in pristine conditions.

 

From the opening bounce, the quality of the footy aligns with the quality of the weather. After a first quarter slog the scores are level at a goal apiece.

 

The second quarter provides more of the same. The wind continues to swirl and both sides struggle to control the ball. Katie Klatt (who plays at Melbourne Uni) adds a goal for the US, which gives them a slender five-point lead at the main break.

 

The rain dries up in the second half and the game opens up a touch. The US stretch their lead to two goals with a beautiful left-foot snap from Kim Hemenway, which leaves GB desperately in need of an answer to stop the game getting away from them.

 

Caroline Sellar provides that answer, soccering one off the ground to keep the Brits within touching distance.

 

At the final change, they trail by a goal, having split the third quarter two-goals apiece.

 

The Swans snag an early (and handy) point, but more importantly, they’re playing the game up their end and locking the ball inside 50.

 

On the adjacent oval, the Croatians have just sealed the Division Two Men’s title. They are screaming, jumping, yelling, and someone has let off a flare for good measure.

 

As the smoke drifts to where I’m standing, GB finally capitalises on its ascendancy with Frankie Hocking marking about forty out. She kicks a high bomb, which just clears the waiting hands on the goal line.

 

Up by a point, the Swans keep pressing and it starts to look like they finally have the Americans beaten.

 

The result is confirmed when one-time Almanac lunch guest Lisa Wilson gathers in the pocket and snakes away from her opponent in a Bob Murphy-esque move.

 

I have little doubt she is going for goal but her intention matters little because the ball plops into the bread basket of Frankie Hocking on the goal line. Hocking gleefully belts the ball through to seal the game.

 

On the siren, the Swans celebrate just as hard as the Croatians, minus the flare. As they sing their song, they jump like they’re doing an Irish jig.

 

After the game assistant coach Ian Mitchell tells me he’s just stoked they finished the tournament with a winning record – three wins, two losses.

 

Ian is soon seen wheeling around a large esky full of beers and the GB girls who are serving as trainers for their men’s side are double checking to make sure they are giving the players the correct fluids.

 

***

My attention quickly turns to the Ireland v USA game to decide third-place in the Men’s Division One comp.

 

The Irish missed out in a spot in the final on percentage after a free-kick was paid to New Zealand in the dying moments of their final pool match. The resulting goal took them from first to fifth in one kick.

 

An MCG finish had seemed likely for the Irish after they beat reigning champions PNG on the opening day.

It wasn’t to be and now they’re facing the USA somewhat undermanned, with rumours that several of their players have returned to their clubs for weekend matches. The towering figure of Padraig Lucey is one notable absence.

 

I station myself below the commentary position of USAFL stalwart Brian Barrish (another one-time Almanac lunch guest), who is calling the game over live stream.

 

There is some debate over a score for the US, and the field and goal umpires convene.

 

“They’re discussing beers after the game,” quips Barrish.  He continues, as the review starts to take a little too much time: “They’ve called the boundary umpire, the Pope is on standby, and so is Hilary Clinton – she thinks it went left.”

 

On the field, the Americans looks clean and slick, but they can’t seem to find the scoreboard as easily as the Irish.

 

Barrish’s quirky commentary continues. He declares that “sometimes logic is a four-letter word”, and describes the players scurrying to pick the ball up as “mushroom farming”.

 

A blistering third quarter from the Irish blows the game open. Their thrusts forward are quick and direct, as has been their style throughout. Impressively, it still works without Lucey, and they go into the final change with a 23-point buffer that the US can’t touch in the final quarter.

 

At the final siren, the Irish aren’t as buoyant as the GB girls.

 

What might have been still lingers for them, which is understandable, given their history of grand finals and success in the competition.

 

I’m sure the International Cup Gala Dinner went some way to lifting their spirits.

 

 

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Ta JB it’s good to read about this unique competition.

    However I want to clarify if I’ve read correctly. The Irish beat the British in the women’s Semi finals? With the men I surmise Ireland won the third place play off ?

    Now I know the Irish played the Canadians in the women’s GF. The last two champions playing off. Who was in the men’s GF?

    Glen!

  2. JBanister says:

    Thanks Glen – yep, the Irish women beat the GB girls in the semi. The Irish men then won the third place playoff.

    Men’s GF was PNG and NZ. There’s a piece up now with details!

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