After a bumpy start to the day, which included an unscheduled four hour stopover at Melbourne Airport, the AU intervarsity footy team arrived at ANU’s South Oval on Tuesday, 17 April itching for a game of football.
With the players disembarking the bus to the oval after a solid eight hours in transit, a 4am wake-up that morning, a red-hot Canberra sun in full operation and only 40 minutes until the start of the game, you would have been forgiven for thinking they might have come out a little bit rusty in the first quarter.
However, led by the pinpoint tap-work and somewhat surprising aerobic endurance of Liam Duhne in the ruck, AU were dominant from the opening bounce (which, rather anticlimactically, had to be recalled by the field umpire). Only accuracy in front of goal prevented the Blacks from attaining a dominant lead within the opening salvo. In the last ten minutes of the opening quarter, the sharpshooters finally found their range. Tom Walker nursed through the opening goal, before late inclusion Doug Radford nailed the first of his three classy goals for the day on the run from near the left-forward flank boundary.
The Blacks went in to quarter-time with a reasonable, but not yet unattainable 5 goal lead. Coach Michael Dadds was full of optimism at the first break – the midfield rotations were working well, and the only thing needed was a bit more polish going forward.
The second quarter produced probably the best overall football of the day. Eddie Dadds returned to his natural habitat in the wide-open expanses of the outer-wing and (given a fair leash by his opponent) was able to sit out in space and, along with Melvin Craig, act as a conduit from half-back to half-forward all game. Several times the Blacks were able to move the football completely untouched by the opposition from full-back to full-forward in a matter of seconds, one particularly memorable play from a kick-out resulting in a lethal Sam Penniment finish down the opposite end of the field almost before anyone realised the ball had been brought back in to play. With a 10-goal lead at the half, it was fair to say the game was under Blacks control.
To the full credit of ANU, they started the second half with a renewed attack on the ball, and captain James Hancock deservedly put their first goal on the board after some nifty play inside forward 50. If it wasn’t for the sterling defensive efforts of Luke Orbons, Lachie Cameron, Jacko Dearing, Ryder Thomas and Toby Maughan, that total would’ve been much higher. Despite starting somewhat sluggishly in the third quarter, the Blacks were able to claw their way back in the ascendancy with some classy football. Play of the day occurred on the rear wing as Harry Walters, Cam McPherson and Ben Adams were somehow able to maintain possession of the ball in the tightest of spaces hemmed up against the boundary line, handballing back and forth between themselves and remarkably evading would-be tacklers under extreme pressure. This sequence happened to unfold right in front of the stunned ANU bench, the play-by-play commentator heard to remark (begrudgingly and understatedly) “jeez… that’s some pretty good footy”.
By the start of the last quarter, it was obvious that fatigue had set in heavily on both sides. Tom Milton had been kept fresh on the bench for this exact reason and was thrown in to full-forward in place of a hobbled Patty Baker. Milton provided an excellent, unselfish leading target, and was duly rewarded with two late goals. Nick Cottrell continued to crash packs at centre-half forward and was perhaps unlucky not to finish with a handful of goals. ANU fought out the game admirably and had the run of the play for large periods of the last quarter without necessarily translating this into scoreboard success.
With a place in the national final on the line next month against Melbourne, the Blacks relished the opportunity for a hit-out and will be a much better side for the experience.
If you are currently a A or B level footballer and are interested in representing the University in the Varsity Challenge Cup, please contact team Captain Eddie Dadds (Eddie_Dadds@hotmail.com) for more information about the team and selection process.
Adelaide University 17.11.113 defeated ANU 3.3.21
Best Players: L Duhne, E Dadds, J Dearing, R Thomas, N Cottrell, L Cameron, C McPherson, H Walters, M Craig, D Radford.
Goal Kickers: 3 D Radford, N Cottrell. 2 T Walker, T Milton. 1 E Dadds, M Craig, C McPherson, S Penniment, P Baker, S Harms, B Watson.
Author: Eddie Dadds