Tokyo Goannas vs Tokyo Bay Suns
A morning of rain may have kept the crowd away, but the boys from the Tokyo Goannas knew that they would have to show up to have any chance of winning the top-of-the-table clash against the Tokyo Bay Suns. At stake: bragging rights, of course—but what else? With the JAFL becoming more and more competitive each week, ladder position is everything, and a win or a loss either way could be the difference between playing deep into finals and not even playing at al all. Fielding a depleted line up, the Goannas would have to run themselves into the ground to prove that last year’s Grand Final wasn’t a miracle, that the Goannas mean business every time they don the V.
But the boys were on the back foot from the first bounce. The Suns took control through the midfield early, setting up their forwards with four quick goals. Slow to man up and displaying none of the aggression that resulted in a famous two-point victory nine months ago, last year’s Premiers were unable to work themselves into the game. Captain Daniel Last had a chance to steady the ship running into space 25 metres out, directly in front, but his shot on goal sailed wide, an important lesson for kids not to change their ball drop mid ball drop. It was only through a late goal to Alex Wyatt that the ’Annas were finally able to hit the scoreboard in a major way.
This was the situation at the quarter-time huddle: undermanned, 18 points down, players muddied and bloodied. It would take a huge effort for Tokyo’s favourite footy club to finish top of the table at the final siren.
Make that a Yooj effort.
Yuji Yamamoto’s steamrolling attack out of the last line of defence gave the Goannas the confidence they needed to take the game on. One play in particular from Yuji left half the Suns flat on the floor like bowling pins. Working in perfect unison alongside him was speedy defender Andrew Last, whose ability to read the play resulted in multiple intercept possessions and a goal from the wing.
At the other end of the field, strength was another telling difference between the sides, with the bigger Goannas pushing their weight around: Travis Wilson won the hard balls, Alex out-muscled his opponents, Doug Bonham shepherded through goal after goal, and Steven Palmer kicked a big sausage in his John Farnham farewell tour.
Importantly, the Goannas were accountable in defence, denying the Suns any momentum. Not only talking the talk but walking the walk, the boys in red and white were able to kick one goal ahead late in the half. Not even a Jason Fan midfield snap in 100% the wrong direction could stop the Goannas from believing that they could and would win.
Scores were level 36-36 heading into the big break.
The third quarter showcased Goannas footy to a T: 15 minutes of non-stop head over the ball. Coach Sam Ghirardello was the stand-out player, going back with courage time after time and backing up his bravery with repeated hit-outs to advantage. It was the gut running of the boys in the guts that kept the ball rolling, with Jason and Dan at the bottom of the pack every time, while Owen Kearney, Jarrod Woodward and Daud Hegarty were the clearance kings, orchestrating open space up and down the ground and transitioning the ball beautifully into the now-dominating forward line. Yuji and Andrew didn’t relent in defence either, choking the Suns’ attack and keeping them scoreless in a quarter for the first time this season.
The Suns’ fourth quarter revival was short lived, with the opponents kicking three easy goals only to have the wind taken out of their sails with late Goannas goals setting up a famous 31-point win against the odds. It was all about effort, and there wasn’t a single player who didn’t having blood flowing at the end of the game. KC Imai typified the spirit of the footy club when he took a big hit on the sideline but bounced back to run out the game battered and bruised.
Alex was the man of the moment with five goals on his fifth wedding anniversary, while Sam, Andrew and Yuji where voted first-, second- and third-best on ground, respectively.
The Goannas are now sitting pretty on the top of the table, with games against the Hawks and Lions to come after a long break. Saturday’s game has shown that Goannas footy, at its best, is the best footy in Japan, and it will be through the same spirit and support that the boys come away sipping from the Premiership Cup two seasons in a row.
Goannas 1.3 5.6 11.9 13.11 (89)
Suns 4.3 5.6 5.6 8.10 (58)