The Baton Rouge Tigers can stand tall after a resilient showing against the Atlanta Kookaburras this past weekend.
Low numbers from both teams meant the squads elected to play 10s on the deceptively large field. The Kookas supplied two players to bring the Tigers’ roster to ten and off they went.
Playing without their first choice ruck and missing a few key position players, the Tigers still managed to draw first blood by corralling the first hit-out and pumping the ball into the forward line.
After the initial blow, the Kookas began to dominate the hit-outs despite the best efforts of Josh “Don’t Call Me Squirts Anymore” Cartmill and Tyler “Career Goal Tally Still Standing at One” Smith. But with the Tigers midfield shifting to a defensive strategy, the Boys in Blue kept the center clearances close to even for much of the match.
While the Kookas membership may be down this season, their core group still boasts a number of savvy veterans. Their ability to make smart leads and create advantages in numbers at contests allowed them to head into half-time with an eight-goal lead.
With the sun pounding down, the Tigers vowed to put in their full effort in the premiership quarter and were rewarded by putting up four goals to Atlanta’s one.
On the deceptively large field, both squads burned their jet fuel quickly, but Baton Rouge pressed a slight fitness advantage with Josh “What, I Like Wine Festivals” Lat dominating contests in the backline and Stephen “I Guarantee I’ll Cramp in the Fourth” Bass playing a cool hand around the pitch.
Kookas legend Wayne “Did Ya See Ablett’s Snap Shot” Kraska generously threw on a Tigers guernsey in the second half and chipped in a few classy goals.
It was a good quarter to be a Tiger, with the defense stiffening and the midfield supplying the forwards with aplomb.
However, the Kookas held firm in the fourth. With superior experience and the advantage of substitute legs, they proved the better side on the day as they ran out eventual six-goal winners.
While no one’s happy with chalking up a loss, there were plenty of bright spots across the field for the Tigers. Every man played to both his skill and fitness levels. Increased passing skills have allowed the Tigers to nearly abandon a desperate gameplan of smashing the ball forward and hoping for the best.
Omari “Only Girls Sleep on the Floor” Maiden brought down some key marks and showed keen awareness of game flow by looking for men running past.
Joe “Why Are You Rubbing Your Legs” Roy brought his usual muscle to contests and found space in the forward lines.
Rob “Don’t Worry How I Paid for the New Tire” Montanaro ran through cramping legs to provide a target in the forward line and a steadying hand in the backline.
Neil “I Love Men in Blue and I’m Not Talking About Carlton” Stebbing collected touches around the pitch and played a hand in a number of key plays in the forward lines.
Lat showed a natural sense of backline play by spoiling a number of marks and rampaging into the midfield.
Bass, despite his own impending cramps, impacted the game around the pitch. He ran on-ball, split the goalposts, and rebounded in the backline.
Smith managed only one “out on the full” on the day.
Cartmill, the Tigers’ best-on-ground, won taps, burst through packs, and showed an iron-headedness not seen since Mickey Kleinhenz pulled on the navy and gold.
A big thanks to the Kookaburras for putting on the match and tailgate. A sincere apology from Baton Rouge for missing the latter–trying to beat both the Kookaburras and the apocalyptic ATL traffic meant a bunch of rooted Tigers just struggling to stay on their feet.