On a chilly, blustery Saturday devoid of any Springtime feel – a perfect day given it was an Irish sports day – the Goanna lads and gals, new and old, young and well-lived, came out to play some International Rules. Club stalwarts Sully and Trav were there pulling on the jumper as well as newcomers in Richard and Patto. Even Mikey Liddell made the trek down from the far reaches of Shizuoka. Most impressive were the Goanna women who came out in droves and made some vigorous noise along with club heavyweights John Fab and Dan McGrath. In fact, the turnout seemed to surpass any attendance records reached last year- and it wasn’t even for points.
Therein lies the optimism that has permeated through the beginning of season 2012 for the Goannas. There seems to be a newfound sense of energy after the well documented hardships of last season, with the new off-field team settling in very well led by Danno Atkins taking over presidential duties from Andy P who manfully kept the club on its feet during one hell of a 2011. Last Saturday on the lush grounds of YCAC though, it was time for the on-field brigade to show how much inroad the team has made through the pre-season, and, although it may be early yet, whether this is a team still rebuilding or if it is indeed a legitimate challenger for the flag. When quizzed coach Rob Scarlett was bullish about his teams prospects. “The committee has stated they expect nothing less than a premiership or I’ll be looking for a new job next year”, he said with his eyes holding more than a hint of steely resolve. “I think that makes things pretty clear”.
Indeed, there were a lot of good things to like from last Saturdays Ned Kelly Cup between Tokyo Goannas and the Nippon GAA. Although the Goannas ended up losing by a decent margin to GAA who were just a bit too fit and precise with the round ball, they took it right up to the Irish boys and lacked nothing for endeavor and aggression. “It was a good performance overall”, explained Scarlett. “Some nice play linking up with handball. Plenty of scoring opportunities created however the round ball made it difficult to convert”.
Some scintillating passages brought the crowd to their feet. The linking up with the midfield brigade, especially Trav, Milts, the coach himself, along with livewire Nick Fab, star Lukey Eyes and newcomer Patto showed a willingness to spread and go in hard. That willingness to win the contested ball saw the forward line receive some great service, feeding the likes of cult figure Sully who proved too strong when the ball was in the air and the enigmatic but brilliant Mikey Liddell. 2nd tall Adam Tiberi showed great heart in coming back on after a nasty knock almost disfigured his hand and the Goannas will be spewing at not receiving any draft picks in return for losing the sharpshooting tall to Singapore next month.
Asked who impressed him most, Scarlett had no problem singling out first gamer Richard Binnie, the man they call Braveheart. “Great Scot the way he was streaming out of the backline”, mused the first year coach. Together with Oges and Danno Atkins who came off early with a disgruntled elbow, the defensive structure looked good for the most part. “Our accountability was great early but fell off later in the match”, stated Scarlett, referring to the team as a whole. “Fitness has been the bane of the club for as long as I can remember”. Asked how the team can improve on that Scarlett was brutally honest. “We need the football committee to dedicate more resources into the footy department. At the moment we don’t have a masseuse or a dietician”.
Even still, the Goannas seem to be a team that thrives on these kinds of disadvantages. The volunteers who bleed red and white are what sets the club apart. The mongrel was evidently back last Saturday. It may be a round ball with some hand-to-toe madness but ‘Maddog’ Milts encapsulated the mood with his ferocious tackling, separating one Irishman from his nose in one of his trademark crunches. In fact, such was the control of possession the Goannas had, it was probably only the combination of their wayward kicking for goal compared with the laser like shooting of the hardy Irish boys that made the biggest difference in the end.
So, a prediction for the upcoming season? At least half the team to copy Oceans usage of gloves by seasons end. We haven’t seen anything so aesthetically exciting since Warwick Capper’s shorts.