Chicago, IL- In a classic match up of the up and comers versus the experienced reigning MAAFL champs, Chicago snuck through to record their third win for the season and condemn Minnesotta to their second straight loss in their first year of MAAFL play.
Chicago had turned it on for the visitors with a balmy 80 degree day with 30 knot winds blowing straight across the ground. The new Australian Consulate General in Chicago was honored with the coin toss and thus began both the game and a huge torrential downpour that didn’t let up until midway through the third quarter.
Immediately after umpire and new dad Justin Biggs bounced the ball it became a cake of soap and players from both teams struggled with the wet, slippery conditions. Chicago did the bulk of attacking early and were rewarded with a classic crumbers goal to a very busy Gordon Ambrosino who is coming into some great form for the United. Chicago stepped it up as the Freeze threw men back and set up a Sydney Swan type flooding game plan and the game got very dour, very quickly. The Freeze scored their first through some nifty ballwork near the goal line resulting in a goal to Marx and that evened scores up. The Freeze continued to attack and were able to goal through Hanson. The game continued to be a tough affair as backlines, aided by the weather, completely took control and with the Freeze flooding their backline, the United lads found it hard to score and looked to Big, Bad, Bustling Al MacGlashan for some Corio Bay brilliance. After missing an earlier (and much easier) shot for goal, big Al swooped onto a loose one (not the first time just quietly!) in the pocket, gave the old “don’t argue” to a freeze defender and then went bang over the shoulder to produce one of the goals of the day. That late sausage roll put sent the United lads into the first quarter huddle 2.3: 15 to 2.0: 12 up and knowing that Minessotta meant business.
The second quarter, played in still a torrential downpour was a tough, old fashioned quarter where both teams threw themselves at the ball and the umpiring was sensational as Biggs let the two teams have at it. The Chicago dangerman, Dave Allen, broke the goal drought and slammed home Chicago’s third as the United boys started to gain the ascendancy. Big Al took a cracker of a mark 25 out dead in front but his ensuing kick failed to make the distance, a point that was brought up to Al several times after the game and one part of the game Wazza wished he’d have seen. The miss turned the game and the norv’erners came back and goaled again through Marx, who was having a handy game on a day not suited to forwards. That took care of the scoring in the second and at half time, Chicago led by a mere two points, 3.4: 22 to MN (My fingers are getting tired of typing in ‘Minessotta’ and I’m sure I’m spelling it wrong to? Why can’t they be St Paul?) 3.2: 20.
Both coaches pleaded with their charges to keep going as sore bodies ran on to dance in the rain once more. Both teams had nice sized benches so many a change was happening as the conditions took their toll. Chicago once again looked the better team as their impressive backline started to get the run it is famous for as the weather started to improve. Poncho Bradley was again amongst Chicago’s best and alongside him, BJ Gambaro was fantastic. The wingers in Uhlmann and Hayse continued to exert their influence but the windy city lads couldn’t get it done where it counted (on the scoreboard that is) and a counter attack by MN led to a horrible mistake by the coach who didn’t get the big body behind the ball and watched horrified as little Jaanke swooped onto it and despite having his own troubles picking it up, soccered through MN’s fourth to send them into an improbable lead. As the quarter continued, the Freeze continued to press the united backline and if not for some staunch work by the Betty Palmers, Mike Paneks and Funky Millers of the world, could have nailed the first nails into the Chicago coffin. As it was, some nice play out of the backline found the ball in the Chicago forward pocket where the ever dangerous Dave Allen picked it up, went that way, then this way and then went bang to record a highlight reel classic goal that picked up the hopes of the large Chicago crowd (who were all still hiding in their cars from the rain which had started to fall again). At the final change she was all even stevens with both teams having booted 4.4: 28 a piece and looking to someone to provide the spark to get them over the line in what would no doubt be a cracker jack last quarter.
Pulling the same move that worked against St Louis, Drake shifted himself up forward as Funky Miller took fullback. The middle got a good rev up with Macglashan and Isadore asked to get into the pressure cooker environment and start throwing their big bodies around because that first goal was going to be a biggy. Chicago won the clearance and attacked ferociously but MN continued to hold on until the Chicago coach was able to kick the first from 35 out to get the United lads going. From the next bounce, the dangerman for Chicago, Dave Allen, found Drake who popped it over to the fleet of foot Ryan Hayse who was able to play on and from a tight angle boot his first for the day and send the crowd (who had started to emerge from cover) into a tizzy as Chicago started to play like winners.
They continued to attack and after a screamer by Billy Uhlmann at center half forward, the mercurial Brian Hoyt pulled in a great grab of his own in between 2 Freeze defenders. He went back and slammed on Chicagos third for the quarter as the Freeze started to show cracks for the first time as they fell behind by 20 points with a little over 10 minutes left. But good teams don’t throw in the towel and the Freeze are a bloody good team. Their on ballers stepped it up again with Quirk being particularly effective. Despite momentum being against them, the Freeze were able to goal through Bondar after the Chicago defense over ran the ball and when McCuen goaled a minute later, it was Chicago’s turn to sweat as their ball movement got sloppy and they started to run out of legs as the boys from the land of lakes sniffed an improbable but classic victory over the reigning MAAFL premiers. Both teams desperately threw everything they had at the ball and each other. When the Freeze took a mark 20 out dead in front whilst only 8 points down, it looked to get even tighter but mercifully for Chicago, umpire Biggs signalled the end of the game and the shot after the siren flew wide resulting in an historic 7 point win for Chicago and the promise of what should be a great rivalry for many years.
To the victors the spoils. Chicago continue to improve after their horror trip to nashville. They were able to blood several new players in Pace, Isadore and Joe while welcoming back Swans legend big Spider who played a ripper in the ruck, and they now have the daunting task of going north to Milwaukee to face the Bombers in a must win game as the race for the MAAFL crown heats up. Nashville hold all the cards but have to travel to MN and Milwaukee while Milwaukee must travel to MN in what will be a game for the ages. The Chicago celebrations went long into the night at new sponsor Rebel bar. The night was proudly sponsored by the Hoyt family who turned up en masse to watch their pride and joy do the worm, a sight no one wants to miss.
For Minessotta it was a great loss if they actually exist. In their first MAAFL season they are finding out first hand how hard it is to win away from home but it’s obvious they enjoyed the game and the experience they will take away from this game is priceless. The guts they showed in coming back when it looked all chicago in the last quarter was a tribute to them and the coaching staff and here in chicago, we look forward to meeting them up there next season. A bloody good game of football by all.
|Goals||United: Allen D (2), Hoyt B, Hayes, Drake, Ambrosino, MacGlashan
|Best||United: Allen D, Hayes, Gambaro, Bradley, Uhlmann, Morgan D