Saturday, April 15, 2017 – Minatomirai Sports Park, Yokohama
Tokyo Goannas (17.14 116) – Tokyo Bay Suns (8.3 51)
Footy is back! After a long winter the cherry blossoms have popped open around Japan and that means offseason training gives way to matches. With a 116-51 win, the Tokyo Goannas got off to a strong start on the path to a third-straight AFL Japan Premiership.
Ball up under the lights in Yokohama…it’s almost like there was no break between the Finals in November 2016 and Round 1 of 2017 on Saturday night. But despite being at a different ground, the same intensity and skills were on display as the Goannas stormed to victory.
The match started in the nervy fashion typical of matches between the Goannas and the Suns. It took a cheeky run from the wing for captain Daniel Last to scoop and slot home the first goal of the JAFL season. But after a slow start, the Goannas picked up play and wound up kicking five goals in each of the first three quarters, kicking matching 5.3 in Q2 and Q3 of the match.
However, it’s the defensive efforts that impressed the captain the most. “The tackling pressure throughout the game, the boys played with the same intensity as they finished 2016 with,” Last said. It was that pressure and defensive clamp-down that provided the foundation for the win. “The skill and poise in the back line from Chris ‘Muzz’ Murray and Yuji Yamamoto was excellent.”
But praise wasn’t limited to just a few. As the Goannas headed back into the capital to celebrate former coach and president Tom Bowes’ nuptials, spirits were high and there were kudos all around. Murray, Yamamoto, Andy Last and Sam Ghirardello were key with intercept marks and tackles; Oceans Huynh, Pete Chalmers and Owen Kearney crucial in the midfield; Travis Wilson the usual silk up front; and hard fight from forwards Alex Wyatt and Doug Bonham. On the wings, debutante Takayuki Enomoto and returning veteran Daud Haugherty had massive contributions, goals for each paired with hard running and tackling.
For the first time ever, players voted post-game on the Magners Man of the Match, with Peter Chalmers being the lucky recipient of a carton of Magners Cider compliments of the Goannas' newest sponsor.
The Goannas will take a week to recover before traveling to Kobe for the ANZAC Day Cup Tournament hosted by the Osaka Dingoes on April 22. AFL Japan Top League action is scheduled to return on Sunday, May 21 against the Poseidons.
Written by Doug Bonham