Flordia Redbacks Win First Official SEAFL Game

I went to Sarasota, Flordia this past weekend for their annual Australia Day festivities.  The day was perfect for footy.  Somewhere in the 60s, full sunshine and a light cross-field breeze on a large oval painted on an absolutely enormous laser-leveled polo field.  Watching the two teams warm up and then huddle, one couldn't help but notice that the Kookas had about four inches and 50 pounds per man over their Florida rivals.  They may have had a few years as well but it seemed the Redbacks more than compensated for this in terms of enthusiasm (and, to be fair, some blokes didn't even have age to compensate for).  The format was 16-a-side with the wings left out.

The game started in the manner expected with a cocky Atlanta team dominating the center and quickly and easily working the ball forward.  Early on the Redbacks were unorganized and uncommunicative.  However, they did respond to Atlanta's opening goal with a goal of their own and that had a very positive effect on the Florida team.  Nevertheless, the Redbacks made a lot of mistakes and continued to do a poor job of manning up.  This was particularly noticeable on the half forward line where behinds were quickly turned around with Atlanta working the ball forward seemingly uncontested.  By the end of the first quarter, signs were not looking good for an upset and Atlanta had about a 20 point lead.

The Florida coach did a great job in the first quarter break making position changes to plug the holes, get the folks to man up, find better options for the fullback kicking out and getting the talk up around the ball.  In the second quarter, the Redbacks held their own, putting a lot more pressure on the Atlanta fullback and generally making it harder for Atlanta to work the ball forward.  However, by the end of the first half, the lead had extended slightly in Atlanta's favor.  During the half-time break, the Redbacks kept their heads up and the talk going as "Coach Trevor" made more positional changes (he's really, really good at that) in preparation for the second half.

Someone must've forgotten to tell Atlanta that the third quarter is called the premiership quarter and for very good reason.  The Redbacks knew.  They scored the opening goal and generally made it impossible for Atlanta to get the ball out of their own backline.  In one sequence, the Redbacks scored four points in a row easily winning the kickout after each behind.  They also started being far more competitive in the center in spite of the size differential in the ruck.  As the quarter went on, Florida reduced the Atlanta lead and with just a couple of minutes to go before the end of the quarter, they had the lead for the first time in the game.  However, a couple of soft goals (the only scoring opportunities for Atlanta in the entire quarter) preserved a slim Atlanta seven point lead at three quarter time.

The fourth quarter continued the same way and the Redbacks quickly pulled to a 14 point lead.  Atlanta had made some key position changes putting more of their big men in the backline.  However, Florida dominated the contested balls, frequently having two or three players to one Kookaburra and, as a result, gained control over the ball in most contests.  In the end, the Redbacks ran out 14 point winners (79-65) and thoroughly deserved the win.



- Simon Percival

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