SCUM 2018 - SL7 Round 3 Match Report

Off the back of two crushing victories in the preceding weeks of 6-nil and 7-1 respectively, ANU State League 7 was due to play Woden. Was this set to be another cruise towards victory for ANU? No! Coach Stockwell had struck the fear into the hearts of his team about facing an undefeated team this week. No sense of security. No sense of superiority. No sense of sense.

But Woden also feared playing ANUFC - the biggest and poorest club in Canberra. A club so poor it cannot afford bibs and has to suffer indignity of playing skins vs. shirts during warm-up. A club so poor that away teams provide their match balls to use despite ANU’s best efforts to slip in our own when one of theirs finds its way into the creek. A club so poor that the lights will be turned off 15 minutes before the end of training to save on electricity costs. I’ve made my point.

On arrival to the ground, a strange feeling began to descend on ANU’s fresh-faced and eager squad. A converted AFL oval next to the Royal Australian Mint that is eerily quiet despite being against the busiest thoroughfare in Canberra. Unbeknownst to us, a cabal of Woden players, having heard of ANU’s high tempo and energetic style of play, had gathered in the basement of the Royal Australian Mint where Australia’s official clock is kept (classified information – do not distribute) to perform an ancient and dark ritual calling on Father Time to curse the game that was to come.

As ANU’s shirtless players warmed up, Woden’s players filtered towards the ground. They trudged in slowly suffering the side effects of the dark ritual and one too many beers the night before (and every other night presumably). In a stroke of luck for ANU, an official referee arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

Then the game was off to a (slow) start. 

Players appeared to be motionless and moving on the spot as if the grass gripped their ankles. The ritual had been successful. It would definitely not suit ANU’s dynamic attacking play but had it also backfired? Would this suit ANU’s aging and slowing defence?

As the game wore on, the effects of the curse started to show. Running the line, Tim decided the ball had gone out past the byline and casually waved the flag in no particular direction. Brought to the referee’s attention the whistle was blown, but confusion reigned on whether a corner or a goal kick was to be awarded. A long distance conversation ensued between Tim and referee (“I just know it went out”) before the referee decided a tutorial was necessary. Both teams watched on as the referee reached around Tim’s hands and forcibly moved the flag in the direction of a corner then a goal kick. Corner then goal kick. Corner then goal kick. End result was a corner. An impossible result given everyone had clearly seen Josh push the ball forwards. Practically - IN SLOW MOTION. It could only either be a goal kick or not out.

As the first half continued, Woden’s strategy started to be successful. Frustration crept in. That’s until the deadlock was broken. At no less than halfway, Owen making a typical striker’s challenge on the rotund central defender saw the ball spiral upwards. With the ball seemingly suspended in mid-air, the Woden goalkeeper positioned himself underneath it. Then time began to speed back up, and the ball fell quickly to land behind the keeper and in the net.

Going into the half time break, ANU was fired up to get the tempo going again in the second half. After six different speeches at half time by all of the senior players – with the inspiration equivalent to how senior the player is (read: listen to Hawkins) – we turned ready to go again. Woden was still plopped on their backsides on the actual field, water bottles in hand, in absolutely no rush.

The second half commenced and Woden wasted no time in resuming their tactics immediately. In a calculated move, Woden saw the ball down the far touchline and sought to kick the ball out as far as possible at least 4 times in succession.

ANU persevered

It was not until one of the numerous corners awarded to ANU in time wasting tactics that Jay calmly slotted. With plenty of time to pick his spot and to make the perfect connection between laces and the ball, he placed it perfectly into the top corner. The goalkeeper gazed hopelessly as the ball rippled the net.

As the second half dragged on, even more chances started to open up for ANU. But Felix, who is accustomed to scoring goals that burn holes in the back off the net, was struggling with the deftness required in slow motion. Leading the line, Felix was called upon to make the finishing touch in one on one situations. But time was the enemy, and Felix deftly placed the ball on the wrong side of the post. Twice.

ANU’s blushes of a measly 2-0 win though were saved by Tim in an act of brilliance, redeeming himself for earlier attempts to sabotage the team. Receiving the ball out wide, Tim had enough time to first adjust his hair for the celebrations that were follow, turn his defender and place the ball into the bottom of net. Having sensed the curse, Tim went for placement over power and it paid dividends.

The eternity of the game was then over and we returned to cars surprised to find that a mere 2 hours had passed. ANU prevailed over the underhanded tactics of Woden this time. But, in the Game of Thrones that is State League 7, the tactics will only get more brutal, more underhanded and more deadly as new contenders rise to challenge the throne.