Post 26 of 127

Stamina is a scarce and much needed resource at the Goannas. Historically and even more so now. That’s why, last Sunday on the remote grounds of Narita, when the bench dropped to two players before the first bounce and the sun decided to blaze an energy-sapping inferno, most pundits thought the boys from Hobgoblins were as good as gone.
2011 Goannas would certainly have wilted.
2012 Goannas, however, proved they are a new and improved machine oiled and maintained during the off-season by new coach Rob Scarlett.

“Very good first up performance”, he told reporters, beaming. And why wouldn’t he would be. It’s a 1 for 1 start.

“It was a gutsy effort by the guys who played as we were undermanned and really needed to dig deep in the second half.”

Resident tough nut Maddog Milts typified the teams resolve by playing the whole game with a thermometer in his snout. Voyager Mikey Liddell played on after regurgitating his stomach lining. Big Johnny Fab got crunched in the gonads, crawled to the bench and then against medical orders, came back on before fracturing his arm in a nasty clash. Even Dan McGrath went back to the well one more time- shoulder ligaments held together with strapping. 

It was stirring stuff watching these warriors, sinew bulging, grimacing and gasping for breath stand their ground whilst the much hyped R246 Lions boasting players who’ve traversed the outskirts of the AFL tried to breach their red and white stronghold. 
As hard as Michito and his cubs tried though, the Goannas were tough, uncompromising, and direct.
Asked if that sort of spartan football will be this seasons ‘plat principal’, Coach Rob Scarlett was quick to affirm.

“Definitely. Our plan is to play to our strengths with long kicks to our taller players. We have worked on it at training and it was good to see that style of play on the field on Sunday.”

The first quarter set up the game as the Goannas jumped the Lions 8 goals to 2. Debutant and behemoth Alex Wyatt put his stamp at full forward by kicking a couple as he, Dan McGrath and John Fab caused migraines for the much smaller defenders. In the middle, when Michito (the Lion King) didn’t get it, somebody from the Goannas would.  Milts led the clearances as usual, fast becoming the prime extractor most Tokyo faithfuls were hoping he’d become. Mitch Ainsworth wasn’t far behind when he came on to give the other midfielders a chop out. One of his gutsier efforts giving him a shiner Glen Archer would be proud of. 
The ruck work was shared around all day- even the lively Nick Fab chipped in giving off some delightful taps. The young star is building a reputation as a goal kicking utility. A great asset in this day and age.

However, after some inspiring running and team play, the collective wheels wobbled shortly after half time. The 8 goal buffer looked shaky when the Lions slammed home 4 goals in 5 minutes.

Fortunately, when it looked like the lack of rotation was taking its toll – enter David Ogilvey. The one-man cavalry.

Oge’s 5 minute burst gave the Goannas some steadying sea legs as they tried desperately to right the ship.
Asked about the fade out Scarlett was understandably exasperated.

“Only having two players on the bench to rotate, sitting down for 10 minutes at half time and seizing up, the solar eclipse… who knows??, but we’ll try to address that next game against Nagoya. “

When asked to further explain the relevance of the solar eclipse reporters were quickly told the topic was off-limits. Instead, the coach was quick to change the subject and point out the influence of the  new recruits.

“(The debutants) were all very impressive (against the Lions)”, praised Scarlett. “Lasty was solid at ground level with great tackling intensity. I thought Aussie Alex worked hard in the ruck early and kicked a bag and Texan Alex continues to prove he is an Aussie stuck in a Yank’s body with great attack on the footy.”

In the end, the Goannas had enough answers 19.8 to 13.8. The Lions were lacking that bit of experience to make full use of their fitness advantage. They had a cheeky sniff coming into the last quarter but it was snuffed out with a Robbie Scarlett special sharking it off the pack, a few twinkle toe steps to put him in the clear,  then snapping truly from an angle. “If you saw my on-field celebration then you’ll know of what I thought of it… “, he remarked as he leaned back with faraway eyes and a wistful smile.

He thudded back to earth as the media throng finally took to quizzing him about how the team lost 4 players so suddenly. Asked if it was true those players were facing an unusual and perverse punishment, the  coach didn’t give much away.
“I am not angry, just disappointed.”
What that really means is anybody’s guess. 

At the end of the day, it was a memorable one for the mighty Goanna’s. Individual acts like Dan Last’s desperate tackle on the forward line, John Fab’s courage in the packs, Dan McGrath taking overhead marks at his own peril, Alex Wyatt’s dead-eye kicking, and Mike Liddel’s team first ethic were the main reasons the Goanna’s were able to belt (mumble) out the team song with such gusto. 

Never letting the boys down, the ladies were out in strong support once more. One player who wished to remain anonymous thought that the ladies looked magnificent on the day. Even the newest of them are now reciting that legendary line “Let’s embarrass them in front of their women”- which was later amended by Dan McGrath to be read as “woman”.

Bring on Nagoya!