It was an early lightning filled morning when I got the call to join the Tigers on their team truck, a black suburban named Tequila.
Although the team bus has been ready and willing, the logistics have not played in favor. Luckily the driver seat of Tequila was open and I was eager and overjoyed to have the opportunity to ride with (drive) the bulk of the team. Coach Neil, Rob, and Mark had already made the trek to Houston in order to scout the area. In our truck was Adam & Josh, Ryan & Ryan, and the Aussies in the back: Matt and Mitch. We had decided that sitting alphabetical order would improve the feng shui of the trip.
The drive started at 4:15 am from Cartmill Ranch, which is just outside of Baton Rouge. Our 7th passenger was held up from the torrential rains that evening, but managed a ride with FOTT (Friend Of The Team) Maryanne, who was making the trip to Houston for the sole purpose of supporting her Baton Rouge Tigers, and taking care of other business during while in Houston. Around the halfway point, Tequila stopped for some human fuel at the Cracker Barrel, an establishment made for King’s of the Road who crave breakie at all hours of the day. Mitch was only able to leave 3 pegs on the puzzle. Throughout almost the whole drive, thunderstorms and rain came rolling in like Stannis Berathean’s warships during the Battle of King’s Landing.
Finally, as the team eased Tequila into a slow halt, allowing her ancient springs a moments rest, we realize the pitch had been relocated to another park. And again, off we were to face the now delayed challenge of our arch-friends the Houston Lonestars.
There’s a long friendly history between The Lonestars and The Tigers, and it didn’t stop until the first whistle after warm ups. The Lonestars pulled ahead early, winning several contests inside shooting range. At the start of the second quarter, the Tiger’s regrouped and organized their lines and began contesting marks with a bit more authority. However, Houston did not let up and continued to add to their lead.
The third and fourth quarters began to rise in physicality as the players started to get tired. The moisture heat rose out of the ground like a basaltic lava flow fueled by the solar radiation of the now visible sun. When the final whistle blew, the Lonestars emerged as victors.
There were some great moments for the Tigers during the game. Rookie Ryan Baldassaro had a spectacular mark just above the reaching hands of the mob-filled contest. He managed to calibrate his boots and sink his shot on goal. Ryan Moran showed bull-dozer qualities in driving to the ball, sometimes from 15 meters away only to explode through the other side of the pile with the skippy-skin. Both of the Ryan’s showed glorious potential and a positive future for the Tigers. They were both recognized by Coach Neil after the game. Veteran player and Club President Josh Cartmill came away with Coach Neil’s approving nod as the Tiger’s best man on the pitch.
The whole day served as a stark reminder that you should get out and enjoy the day at its fullest. The Houston Lonestars Ruggles Cup is played in memory of Ruggles, a solid Lonestar Footy player, and the Ruggles Family was properly honored at the start of the match. Also, April 25th was the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landing by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI. ANZAC Day is remembered annually and is comparable to America’s Veteran’s Day, as a remembrance of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in preserving the way of life we know and love.
A beautifully orchestrated service with a trumpeter playing the Last Post and a silent moment for the Ruggles Family wrapped up the field activities for the day. Despite the morning rainy weather, the day turned out to be quite brilliant.
After the game, the Tigers went to the team locker room, provided by La Quinta, and Shh, showered, and shaved in preps for the ANZAC remembrance event put on by the Houston Lonestars Footy Club for the City of Houston. Never have so many fake Australian accents turned out to be real ones; as the place was packed with Aussies. Footy players, families, and other American counterparts joined in the fun with a replay of some AFL action on an imported outdoor television while the joeys bounced in the inflatable castle. There were even footies flying through the air like a scene from Deep Impact. Also, a uniquely Aussie menu was prepared by The Pheonix on Westheimer, the host site of the event. Aussie burgers, sausage rolls, and more helped bring the day a little closer to home for our expats.
Despite the loss, the Tigers walked away with some experience for the rookies, some play time for the veterans, and a continuation of the awesome friendly relationship between The Lonestars and The Tigers.