Fri 04 December, 2009
Tokyo Goannas 3.2, 7.6, 12.8, 13.10(88) defeated
Eastern Hawks 2.2, 2.8, 2.9, 6.14(50)
AFTER making their way through tough semi finals in the preceding weeks, the Tokyo Goannas and Eastern Hawks came together at the YCAC venue in Yokohama to clash in the 2009 Japan AFL Grand Final. After playing the national anthems of Japan and Australia, the teams moved into their respective positions and the atmosphere was tense as supporters from both teams looked on.
The game kicked off at a frenetic pace as each team jostled for the first inside 50. After a brilliant start in the ruck by Matt Edmonds, Dan McGrath and Josh Pearce combined in the centre to score the first goal for the Goannas. Moments later, following a sensational clearance and a strong mark, Patrick Sullivan kicked another goal for the Goannas. However the Hawks quickly settled and managed to break the lines to score their first major via Toshihiro Wakasawa’s boot. The Goannas backline, brilliantly led by Dave Ogilvy, Nick Utting and Craig Huddleston, repelled several inside 50s. Travis Wilson on the wing was welcomed back to the Goannas after missing several games through injury, and helped set up the Goannas third goal for the quarter. The Hawks managed to get the last of the quarter with seconds to go and it was the Goannas by a single goal at the first change.
Simon Cumming came into the ruck for the Goannas at the start of the second quarter and had an immediate impact with his awareness at ground level, providing excellent support for the midfield. Ronnie Mitchell confused the Hawks by running forward off the wing and goaled early in the second quarter following a fine pass by Travis Wilson. Dan Atkins and Liddell were proving lively up forward and the Goannas game began to click into gear as they brilliantly executed a dominant hand ball game. Pearce continued his fine game with a long raking goal which sent the supporters into overdrive. Matt Ritchie enjoyed a run up forward and provided some excellent contested work against a tough defensive pack. Ogilvy was on fire down back and provided a memorable moment after an umpiring decision went against him. Andy Peyton and Nick Utting also provided strong contributions which resulted in the Hawks being held goal-less in the second quarter whilst the Goannas piled on four majors.
The Goannas went to the long break full of confidence but with plenty of work still ahead of them. The third quarter, which has long been a strong one for the Goannas, provided one of the finest displays of team footy for the year and it was clear the boys in red and white were switched on. They continued to split packs and attack the football with a hunger rarely witnessed on Japanese soil. After a dominant game at full back with wonderfully accurate clearance kicking, Huddleston went down with a groin injury early in the third quarter. Such was the quality of the Goannas bench, however, it hardly made a difference. Jim Cole finished off a consistent season with a running goal up forward – one of his few in eight long years at lizard land and when Kris Bayne chipped in with a right foot snap, it was evident theGoannas had won. With McGrath, Mitchell, Wilson and Sullivan marking at all ends of the park and with a brilliant defensive structure, the Hawks were again held goal-less – a rare feat against a super fit team. Amazingly the Goannas had opened up a 10-goal lead in the space of 15 minutes.
It was clear to all that the Goannas had secured their fourth successive Japan AFL premiership by the final change, but the Hawks continued their run and piled on four unanswered goals which momentarily sent a ruffle through the Goannas camp. Wilson and the Goannas responded by taking a screamer on the supporters wing and then chipped to Sullivan who kicked his sixth major of the game. With the ring of the final siren the two teams came together for congratulations on a wonderful year of footy in Japan in what is a rapidly expanding and improving competition.