On Saturday, April 14th, the Tigers boarded the team bus, which sorely needs a nickname, and headed down I-10 to Houston for the first real hit-out of the 2012 season.
Five hours later, their senses dulled by Guisseppe Montanaro’s collection of ’90s rock, the nine Tigers stepped out to face a Lonestars squad brimming with numbers and confidence.
Baton Rouge picked up a few Houston players to play ten-a-side with subs and the match was underway. After winning the opening tap, the Lonestars immediately bombed the ball long to their tall timber, Kevin Vaden, who marked and goaled.
It was a pattern the rest of the match would follow.
After an opening barrage, the Tigers began to get their feet under them and started finding a bit more of the footy. But with a constantly rotating Houston midfield getting first use of the ball and kicking to the entrenched Big Kev, the going was rough.
But not all was bleak for Baton Rouge.
Once he shook off his birthday hangover, Irish James Morris proved to be a force around the ground, constantly breaking lines with his deceptive agility and sending the ball into the Tigers’ forward 50.
He even had the match highlight with a brilliant run and shot on goal in the second half. It would’ve been better if he hadn’t been attacking his own goal and recording a behind for the Lonestars, but the effort wasn’t lacking.
The Tigers also blooded Kool Keith Fleniken who acquitted himself well on the field and at the pub afterwards.
Veteran Jeff “Fidel” Phillips brought his hobo beard, massive turning radius, and new-found stamina to the field. He even reluctantly had an extended run in the midfield.
Typical Tigers’ forward Jeff Horn enjoyed some time in foreign place–the backline–but used his marking skills to help spur a Tigers run in the fourth quarter playing as a loose defender.
New Orleans resident Jason Wynn-Smith had the toughest assignment of the day, as he spent most of the afternoon on Big Kev but certainly spoiled a few goals for the massive forward.
Word’s gotten out about Mean Joe Roy, and the ref paid him extra attention, but that didn’t stop his hard-charging ways.
Despite being a combined 184 years old, Roberto Montanaro and Neil Stebbing put the “Aussie” in Baton Rouge Aussie Rules during the trip. Robbo provided a scrap in the ruck and for a few glorious minutes Stebbing turned back the clock and burned up the middle of the ground–until the ref whistled full-time.
Player/coach Tyler Smith also played and managed to not injure himself.
Despite being under the pump most of the match, the Tigers ended on a strong note by winning the fourth quarter. After that, it was all cold beer and beautiful women.