2003 American Revolution vs Balmain Tigers

Opponent: Balmain Tigers
Date: 28 September 2003
Location: Miller Field, Staten Island, NY

Revolution v Northwind
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Revolution 2.3 4.3 8.4 10.4.64
Balmain 4.3 9.5 12.8 14.10.94
Revolution Pope (4), Lakomy, Kalhovd, Purcell, Sarbacker, Loring, Lucero
Balmain Millar (3), Keenan (2), Garvey (2), Williams, Sadler, Dunn, Dwyer, Atkinson, Carey, D.Carle
Revolution Blankenship, Pope, Starbuck, Brunmeier, Thurmond
Balmain Carey, Cooney, Garvey, Keenan, Williams, Millar

Account by Denis Ryan:
The Caltex/Mayfair Balmain Tigers held off a brave American Revolution team to record a 30 point victory in the first ever clash in between sides from the respective countries. The superior skills and game sense of the Tigers proved to be too much of an obstacle for the determined, but inexperienced Revolution.

Played in wet and rainy conditions, the game was played at a higher standard than the circumstances would have suggested. Although the five-goal victory suggests an easy win for the Tigers, this was not the case as they managed to win every quarter by a goal or two to slowly build their lead. Balmain are celebrating their centenary year, while the Revolution are in their fifth. It was this difference in experience that was to be the telling factor. Certainly, the Revos could not be faultered for their enthusiasm.

Earlier in the day, the Revolution B side took on the local New York Magpies in what was a closely fought encounter. The lead changed many times with the Magpies leading by 8 points with only minutes to go. However a goal to the Revolution, followed by two behinds saw the game end in a nail-biting draw as the final siren sounded.

All in all, it was a great learning experience for the Revolution and the future bodes well for them for next years Atlantic Alliance Cup in Toronto and the 2nd International Cup in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005.

[INSERT PHOTO - photo courtesy of Louisa M. Kirby]


New York Sports Express Article

Australian for Football
It’s always a g’day for footy on Staten Island.
By Michael Malone

ONE CAN'T HELP BUT wonder, what was going through the Aussies' minds, as they envisioned their Australian Rules Football match in New York City, only to find themselves sitting amidst the perpetual renovation of the Staten Island ferry terminal on Sunday morning.

The newsstand guy did brisk business selling Tums, breath mints and Aleve two-packs to local folk decked out in the night before's duds and washing away the night before's merriment with napkins and Poland Spring water.

After the John Kennedy lands on Staten Island, it's cab rides for the Aussies, passing dubiously-titled streets like Oder Avenue and W. Fingerboard Road before pulling up to Miller Field, a huge abandoned airfield dotted with athletic fields—the tips of the Verrazano poking through the clouds in the distance.

Why Staten Island for the match between the Sydney touring squad, known as Balmain Tigers, and the U.S. national Australian Rules team? Because Rules requires a field big as a Manhattan neighborhood, shaped like a fat football and measuring between 135 and 185 meters long, 110 and 155 meters wide. Unless you're Dave Matthews, you're just not going to get that kind of space in Central Park.To prepare for the match, U.S. coach Scott Nicholas ran his squad—all of whom are American-born and selected from the 30-plus Aussie Rules teams across the U.S.—through a workout Saturday in Central Park on a small god-forsaken dirt patch east of the North Meadow.
That practice got the cobwebs off after Friday's social at Park Avenue Country Club in Manhattan, attended by some 600 players, fans and, of course, the Foster's Girls.

There are about 50 people in attendance for the match, most of them players from the day's undercard: the New York Magpies versus the U.S. B team that ended in a draw. Each team fields 18 players in brightly colored muscle shirts, playing positions like ruck rover and back pocket and trying to move the ball forward either by kicking, running or punch-passing it to one another.

A kick through the middle two of four goal posts is a goal, good for six points, and a kick through the outer posts is a behind, good for a point. Whereas the goal judges wear something like white lab coats in the matches found on Fox Sports World after the tractor-pulls (but before the infomercials starring Randy Johnson plugging the Body Blade), the judges in this game are young Australian boys in sweats.

The U.S. Revolution, better known as Revo's, comes out strong—getting hard-nosed play from a Phoenix man they call Fingers to get two quick goals and go up 12-6. But the Aussies storm back, and at the end of the 20-minute period, Balmain's got four goals and two behinds to the U.S.'s two and three. In American parlance, that's 26-15.

"Make 'em chase us when we have the ball!" Coach Nicholas, an Aussie, yells to his troops. "Let's keep possession and kick it in the G-spot."

Kicks to the G-spot and knocks to other regions down under go largely unwhistled. One felled Tiger on the sideline grimaces as a team manager discusses the injury with a female supporter—a Sheila, in Aussie parlance.

"He'll be fine," the man says. "It's either a Grade 2 or Grade 3 AC separation. He's just got to suck it up."

The U.S. starts the second quarter with a nifty goal from Dan Sarbacker out of St. Louis, but the momentum quickly shifts. Fittingly, nasty black clouds move in and the breeze picks up, and spectators find shirts to cover their Aussie Rules tans—bronzed arms and pasty torsos. The game at times looks a bit like Globetrotters/Colonials, as the Tigers play keepaway and extend their lead to 65-21 at the break.

"We let 'em kick two soft goals," says Nicholas to his players. "Are they harder than us?"

"No!" goes the chorus.

"Are their skills better?"

But in fact, Balmain's are. They've played the game since childhood, whereas every Yank has a different story about finding the sport later in life. Like the guy whose roommate did a semester in Melbourne, and came back with a fat, funny football. And the beefy Edward Norton look-alike, black eye and all, who got recruited when a local club visited his Cal-Poly Pomona campus and signed him up.

Balmain coach Troy Luff delivers a much less intense speech. "Don't mess around with pissy little kicks that just aren't on," he says as his players nod. If the match isn't their top priority, it's understandable—they're flying to L.A. in a few hours, Vegas after that.

The rain picks up as the second half starts. Revo's bag two goals, compliments of Brad Pope and George Lakomy, as the U.S. sideline buzzes. A clattering pickup stops nearby, as two National Parks service guys in drab gray uniforms get out. Both are middle-aged, with cigarettes in their mouths. One is black, the other Hispanic.

"What's the name of this game?" the black man asks a sub. "Is it rugby?"

"Australian football," the sub answers. They watch for about a minute before returning to their truck, shaking their heads.

Balmain has extended its lead to 87-57 at the end of the third, and Luff lets his subs have a runaround. As a Balmain guy attempts a free kick at goal, an American yells out "You've got chewy on your boot!" The Balmain sideline erupts in laughter. Chewy is bubble gum, an Aussie explains to me. It's a line they used as boys, something like "Your mother" or, of course, "Noonan!" Revo's are a few decades behind Balmain, in every aspect of the game.

Ol' Chewy Boot hits his kick, and the final score is 94 (14 goals, 10 behinds) for Balmain, 64 (10 and 4) for the U.S. Both teams do three hip-hip-hooray's for the other, then Luff comes over with Balmain patches and a few words of encouragement for Revo's.

"It was a very competitive game," says Luff, a former star with Sydney Swans in Australia's premier league. "Things are looking very good for the future of U.S. footy."

Then he and his boys pile into gypsy cabs, and head for the Verrazano and the airport.

10/9/2003 - Michael Malone

Troy Luff Diary

Related News
- Aussies too good for Revolution
- New York Sports Express Article
- US Revolution v Australia

The alarm sounds at 7.30am on a very wet and windy New York day, the 3 previous nights found us going to bed at the same time. Most of the players found it difficult to sleep as the body clocks were all over the place. We met in the foyer of our hotel and you could see the anticipation on everyone ’s faces. We jumped in those bright yellow cabs and headed for the Staten Island ferry terminal. We had the usual pre-game breakfast, a sausage and egg McMuffin, and boarded the boat. The mood was fairly tense on the way over, nobody new what to expect, all the talk was about the game and the enormity of what we were about to do. The concentration was broken by a large statue of a lady holding a torch; the boys thought it was worth a look.

We mull around the ferry terminal on Staten Island, preparing ourselves for the big match, players getting strapped in one corner, half a dozen or so kicking the footy around in the other. The onlookers aren’t quite sure what these Aussie guys are doing. Its 11pm and its time to pile into the Mafia owned cabs and head for Miller field. The players were a little surprised with what they saw, they knew AFL certainly wasn’t big in the States but the NY Magpies and the Revolution 2nds were putting on a pretty good show. The field had grass on it longer than our captain Michael Carey’s hair but this was America, home of Grid Iron and Baseball not AFL so what could we expect, at least it had the size. Everyone’s ready to go, time for a quick team photo and a pep talk from the coach, I said to them "today is history in the making and you are all part of it, its been a big 3 days so far but don’t think the Yanks are really going to care, they mean business. Enjoy the experience but whatever you do don’t go soft because these guys are out to win"

12.15pm and the siren goes (well it’s actually Rob Oliver yelling out "righto" but it will do) the first ball up of the first ever game between an Australian side and a USA side. It’s a fairly scrappy affair to start with, both teams getting rid of their nerves. A couple of goals to the Revo’s and the Balmain boys realize they are in for a game. The look on the team’s faces at quarter time was one of tiredness but also of surprise, we had no idea of the Revolutions standard and so far they were pretty good. My instructions were just to play direct footy and that they did. The 2nd term saw the Tigers lift the pace and show their class with a 5 goal term. The US boys were never going to give in and the 2nd half was a fairly even contest, the main difference was the skill level and what we call "footy smarts" as most of the Aussies grow up playing AFL they learn not only how to kick, mark and handpass but also how to play the game, at the end of the day this was the difference. The other telling factor was the difference in tackling ability and evasive skills.

As the final siren blew the boys looked pretty relieved at the win, it was a good game and the American boys certainly showed us how passionate and committed they are at playing our great Australian game. After the game I told all the players how in weeks, months and years to come they will remember this day how they were a part of history. US footy certainly has a good future if this game was anything to go by although someone needs to tell Chuckie that yelling out "chewy, chewy, chewy on your boot" will only put the player off through sheer laughter. It was a great honour and privilege to play the USA in New York and now we think its time to make it an annual event, the standard will only get better so we ought to make sure we bring a better team next time.

On behalf of myself and all the Balmain Tigers, thankyou so much for the opportunity to play the Revolution, it was fantastic to see the joy in each player’s eyes after the game when all had acknowledged what they had just achieved. Good luck in the future.

10/16/2003 - Troy Luff

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