Women's game at the Nationals

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Women’s game brings out “International Series” flavor.

As if by some quirky circumstance of fate, Fox Footy’s Tiffany Cherry probably couldn’t believe what she was doing. On her way to Dublin to report on the imminent International Series games between Australia and Ireland, a quick stopover had landed her at the 2004 Pratt Industries USAFL Nationals Championships in Atlanta.

A logical progression you might think, but playing in a women’s game in the male dominated world of USFooty is a little unusual. Even quirky, when you consider that half of the girls playing were from the local Women’s Gaelic football team and yet none of them were Irish. Quirkier still when you consider that the one Irish girl playing, Clare (any more Irish and she’d be a Kathleen), doesn’t play Gaelic. Even quirkier when, although none of them were Irish, five of the 26 girls playing names were derivatives of Kathleen…………………Uhh, okay, that’s enough; let’s talk about the game.

After an introductory training session on Saturday afternoon, rules and teams were decided upon and coaches appointed. Rod “Grilla” Grljusich took command of Grilla’s Grubbers while Denis Ryan was handed the reins of Denis’ Devils. While the game’s purpose was in a development mode to introduce the game to a new audience, the friendship between the two coaches also meant that it would also be competitive. Both coaches desperately wanted bragging rights for later in the day.

The opening bounce showed right from the get go that this was going to be a highly skilled, fast moving and competitive game. Minnesota Kathryn opened the scoring almost immediately for the Grubbers when she snatched the ball out of a boundary throw in and snapped truly. With the Grubbers winning the next center clearance, the Devils defense were this time up to the task and grittily repelled the attacks and starting sending the Devils into attack resulting in the first of four majors for full forward, Squirrel.

With Penalla starting to exert her dominance in the center of the ground, the Devils gradually gained the ascendancy as the ball moved freely from one end to the other. The girls were having no trouble finding the goals and were showing the gathering boys in the crowd how to keep the scoreboard ticking over. In fact, the fast growing crowd was testament to the quality of the game as the Devils went into the half with a five-point lead over the Grubbers, 5.3.33 to 4.4.28.

With both coaches imploring their girls to give all in the last half, the game picked up exactly where it left off. This time however, both defenses were dominating before Tiffany Cherry managed to break clear of her tag, mark and goal from 30 yards out for the Grubbers, giving them the lead. Goals and the lead were then traded three more times as Squirrel kicked her fourth with a magnificent shot from long out on the boundary. She then brought the enthusiastic crowd to their feet with a magnificent gather, dodge, weave and run with her resultant shot on goal deserving more than the ball drifting to the left of the goal post.

With the seconds running out and six points down, the Grubbers ran the ball out of defense with a magnificent succession of disposals to find Minnesota Kathryn with the ball deep in the forward pocket. Desperate times call for desperate actions and Kathryn’s opponent, Denise, was up to the task. Instead of trying to “wrap up” Kathryn, the tackling restriction imposed on the game, she decided to rip the ball out of Kathryn’s hands. In what would be a match saving move, Denise was able to wrench the ball away and kick it clear to the wing as the final siren blew.

Although the Devils were able to win the game by a solitary kick, the real winner of the day was the Women’s version of our great game. As coach Ryan has said before, the US women will beat an Australian women’s side way before the men ever do. This was backed up by the head of AFL Game Development, David Mathews, comment that they could probably beat them already. Well that sounds like an unofficial challenge to me. How about it? An Aussie women’s team taking on the US girls at the 2005 USAFL Milwaukee Nationals?

I’d like to see that!

Devils   7.5.47
Grubbers 6.5.41

Devils: Squirrel 4, Cathy R 2, Lisa 1
Grubbers: Dugger 2, Kathryn 2, Amy 1, Tiffany 1

Devils: Penalla, Squirrel, Noodles, Cathy R
Grubbers: Amy, Dugger, Kathryn, Tiffany




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