Radisson Hotel, Narita
Final Score: Samurais 14-15 99, Goannas 15-12 102
Best on Ground: Michito, Dan McGrath, Shane Flanagan.
Umpires: Craig Forster, Gareth Jones, Pete Lawley.
Even more than the Narita Cup, the event that all teams strive to win each year is the Grand Final. The Goannas and the Samurais have built up a fierce rivalry over the last couple of years, with the Samurais winning in 2002 and then the Goannas clinching a nail-biter last year. The two teams lining up against each other in the grand finale again this year had spectators hoping for another classic match and ensured a big crowd out at the Radisson Narita ground.
The Samurais rocked up first out on the field before chief organisers Smokin Pete and Gareth Jones turned up on the early bus. After losing a final they so desperately wanted to win last year the Samurais were absolutely determined to beat the Goannas this time around.
There was a fun game between the Gokongs and Goannas Seniors (ie the 2003 Goannas committee plus one or two others). Apart from a spectacular solo goal from Smokin Pete on the run it was a fairly standard affair. It filled in some time but everyone was there to watch a different match.
And so the big game began. With solid victories right throughout the season the Samurais were hot favourites, but a recent victory in the wet and a strong outfit for the final gave the Goannas some hope.
The Goannas put the first goal through quite early but the Samurais then controlled the ball for much of the rest of the quarter constantly peppering the goals but struggling to put majors on the board. Both teams appeared determined not to let their opponents run away with it in the first term and despite a slight Goannas fled at quarter time, it had been a fairly even quarter.
In the second quarter the Samurais came out firing and succeeded in leaving the Goannas in their wake. Goals no longer eluded them as they had in the first quarter and the points quickly piled on. The Samurais midfield showed the crowd football close to their scintillating best and by the end of the quarter had turned a 10-15 point deficit into a 15-20 point lead.
The third quarter was a quiet affair, as both teams held their own. The Goannas lifted their game after a disappointing second quarter but were unable to close the gap on the scoreboard. The boys in red and white were reinvigorated by a solid third quarter performance, however, and looked capable of anything in the final 20 minutes.
Trailing by 16 points at the final break, the Goannas had an uphill battle to snatch victory out of the hands of the fitter Samurais. There is something to be said for adrenalin and determination; however, as the Goannas started the quarter looking like the trophy belonged in their hands. A couple of quick Goannas goals and the Samurais started to feel the heat. A midfield that is normally so silky smoothsuddenly started struggling to link handballs down the ground. The Samurais flinched and the Goannas didn’t let the opportunity go past. The Goannas took a ten-point lead halfway through the quarter and the Samurais, try as they might, could not catch up.
The Goannas ran out three-point winners, 14-15, 99 points to 15-12, 102.
For the Goannas, Shane Flanagan was consistently strong in the midfield while Dan McGrath’s big marks and long kicks up front ensured the midfield’s hard work paid off. Best on Ground, however, was the largely unrecognised Michito for the Samurais. The master of hard-ball-gets sent centimetre-perfect kicks into the chests of his forwards time and time again, and orchestrated magnificent running plays through the centre on more than one occasion. An outstanding talent and a very deserving Peter Wilson Medal winner.