The Abu Dhabi Falcons juice Muscat

The Abu Dhabi Falcons made the 4 ½ hour trip to Muscat for the third time in as many years. It’s one of the best and worst places to go. The best because the Magpies put on a great ‘after game’ in Rugby Union club facilities, (bbq feast and plentiful beers) and worst because it takes 5 hours or so to drive there, plus a little extra for border crossings. This year the team decided to stay overnight in the city rather than make a quick exit.

The trip had its moments. Woody the chief organizer, who signed off the organizing email with not so vague threats that departure from the Musaffah servo was at “7.30am and not 7.31am “, was the last to arrive, at 7.35. The convoy was only slightly delayed as we stuck up the freshly printed Falcons logos on the back windscreens of the six cars in the main convoy. Interesting discussion on the appropriateness of a ‘chain’ metaphor and consequently how elastic it could be before the convoy/chain was broken. This linked (get it?) to the team concept in general. I’m sure ‘Supercoach’ would have loved it. He is big on vague metaphors.

The border crossing went smoothly for most although one car, driven by Woody and the most obsessed with staying on schedule, had to make a return trip for a tiny little green stamp that had been inadvertently missed. A tense atmosphere was relieved when Woody announced; “We are only 15 minutes behind schedule, I’m sure we can make it up”. They arrived at the hotel just after the rest of us. George Costanza would have been proud of the time he made.

A short time to rest, or in my case wrap ankles, was allowed before we departed for the ground. It was the first warm day for a while, a slight sea breeze not enough to bring it to truly comfortable footy playing weather. On the bright side the field has a truly spectacular setting, surrounded by rocky escarpments, schools and a mosque. It is also a bit smaller than most as a result of trying to fit it into one of the few flat areas available.

Last year we played earlier in the day in order to be finished before the Muscat Rugby Union Club played their game. This year they played first so that a team from Doha could catch a flight back. It made it a few degrees cooler, so no complaints on that score!

The Falcons got the ball forward from the opening bounce with Matty ‘One-Touch’ Brunsdon living up to his name. Unfortunately he also transmuted his crossbar challenge skills to the goal posts. While he kicked 5-5 for the day two or three shots hit the big sticks, rather than sliding through. Matt provided an effective target all day and was rarely beaten in any marking contest, even with his own team mates. Definitely up there with the best games he has played for the Falcons.

The rest of the quarter was pretty even with Muscat asking some questions with a well thought out tactical approach to the game coupled with aggressive tackling. The umpire pulled them up a few times early and then let a few questionably late ones go through later on. (That being said the bloke was one of the best umpires we have played under all season. Hopefully he will get a gig for the GF). The Magpie tactics were based on clogging up the scoring zone and preventing us ruck types from getting a clear run and jump at the ball at the bounce. (Well actually the throw up, but that doesn’t sound so good).

A quick mention here of the first up ruck for Muscat; Younis, might be a bit of clue there, is not a native-born Aussie. In fact I’m not sure where he is from, but he was there the first time the Falcons played against the Magpies at the Dubai 9s Tournament in 2008. Back then, he didn’t really know what was going on and my age wasn’t so much of an issue against his youth. This year he was more than competitive, I reckon he is one of the most improved players we have come up against. The advantage we had was of numbers of back-up players able to allow our guns a break or two while not losing too much in comparison.

Younis made it hard for Dan and myself to get to the fall of the ball and direct it where we wanted it to go. A big part of 9s footy is first use as a quick kick gets the ball into the scoring arc. Fortunately Trigga, (performing for his newly arrived girlfriend), Mick Molnar (performing for his girlfriend) and Stu (also performing for his girlfriend) were not only inspired, but reading the drop well and more often than not working the ball out of the middle. We were happy to allow the Magpies numbers, Younis in particular filling a space, in our scoring zone as they didn’t have too many options to kick to once they did get hands on the ball.

The short field meant that a good kick from defence was potentially a shot on goal, so we played one attacking midfielder and the ruck and other midfielder a kick behind play. Trigga ended up as the last line of defence a few times getting the ball away from two or more attackers through determination and elusiveness. Couldn’t say he showed the same elusiveness and determination later in the night after Kim (the newly arrived girlfriend) tackled him…

At quarter time Supercoach called for a bit more thought and rather than trying to hit targets in the crowd, to hit the hotspot. As the heat took it’s toll and the run went out of the Magpie legs Falcon goals came more frequently. Stu and Mick were effective around the ground, accurately finding targets amongst the forwards from broken play or linking to create running goal opportunities. Stu kicked 5 and Mick was involved in the 2nd best play of the day when he cleared from deep in defence with a kick to the wing, gathered the spoilt ball and kicked to Matt on the lead lace out for a shot at goal. Mick is a hard marker and reckoned he had spent much of the game chasing his tail. But what he does do when he gets the ball is rock solid, accurate and consistently rated by his team mates.

The, doubtedly, best play of the game was when your silver haired reporter collected, (plucking sparrow style), a scrambled kick just outside the scoring arc and with eyes wide open to the idea of breaking my goal kicking drought for the year, did the right thing and dished off to 16yr old Ash so he could kick his first. By the time I realized he was a Collingwood supporter it was too late. (The wily young bugger kicked another around his body later on so didn’t really need my help after all).

To summarise using inner sanctum terms, the Falcons divisions all played their roles to execute the game plan effectively. The forwards created space for each other and if not on the end of leads, it would be one of our mid-fielders snaking them. The mid-field has the talent and the legs to be a challenge for any team. The backline is solid as. Big Jim , in what he thought was his last game, was playing against the same bloke he marked in his first ever game of Aussie Rules. That time he kicked 3 on Jim, this time he got one, but that was when Jim was having a rest.

In the end it was a 94 point win for the Falcons. As previously mentioned the after game bbq and drinks were just fine for the Falcon boys who didn’t have to work the next day unlike the Muscat blokes. (You think the daylight saving thing is a hassle, try dealing with uncoordinated weekends; we have Friday/Saturday off, Muscat has Thursday/Friday off…)

After that session we caught the late bus back to the hotel to kick on to the wee hours. Highlights were the goodbye speech to Jim, and his reply, followed by the announcement that a team whip around had raised about $AUS650 to get him back from the US for the GF. It made perfect sense at 12am for the team to jump into the hotel pool in various stages, although none nude, of clothing. Thankfully the paparazzi were not present.

The drive back was not uneventful as we got caught in traffic about 10km out from the Sohar turnoff. We assumed it was a traffic accident, as ambulances were trying to make their way up the highway. We were able to slide off into the backstreets with the assistance of the trusty GPS and make our way around the blockage to the turnoff. It was a bit of a surprise to find the next day that there hadn’t been an accident, but an organized demonstration that resulted in damage to buildings, tear gas, rubber bullets, twelve injured and two dead. One of our team was led out of the area as it was all going down. The more than surreal life in the Middle East continues.

So, an undefeated season and guaranteed spot in the GF against an opponent yet to be confirmed. A game played this weekend had three teams Dubai Dingoes, Doha Kangaroos and Muscat in with a shot depending on the score and/or resulting percentages. This year, the GF will be held at our home ground the Sheikh Zayed Sports Complex after two years at the Sevens Complex in Dubai. It looks like being a big day with something for everyone. In my 7yr old son’s eyes it is a big day because it is the last day of Auskick for the year and he gets to play on the same pitch as his dad. That’s how he rolls…

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.

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