It was a dreary, murky morning when the heavily favored boys from Chicago took their allocated seats and began the long drive down the I-65 to meet the Ohio Valley River Rats in Cincinnati. Luckily, United had sent three lads in Basher, Forte and young Jack Thompson down the night before to at least have some players fresh and settled for the season opener. United were to welcome first MAAFL gamers in ‘Rocky’ Deehan, Nolan McKeegan, Basher, Forte and young Jack Thompson. Selectors were impressed by Rocky’s commitment to looking after himself by attending a relaxing evening at the Art Museum the night before. The poor lad was then so anxious about the game he was unable to get to sleep. The anxiety continued throughout the day with repeated vomiting. Bloody lucky he played well!
The team eventually arrived in Cinci expecting to see Bash, Forte and young Jack Thompson awaiting them but alas this was not to be and it wasn’t to be for a long time afterwards. United had also learnt of the loss of Pace, Clarkey and The Kid on the journey down so the team was 6 players short of what was expected to start the game. The weather had cleared up setting the scene for a great game of football.
United’s team was reshuffled to account for missing players and they started well with an early goal to Hoyt. This was about the only joy for Chicago in the 1st Quarter as the River Rats begun to run rampant around the ground winning possession at will and easily moving the ball amongst themselves without any pressure. Matt Suellar was dominant up forward for the Rats overpowering his quality Chicago opponents and kicking 3 of their 5 goals for the quarter. While ‘Lenny’ Ehlers was able to score his first goal against the tide for United to add some respectability to the scoreboard, the team looked like they’d all been eating meat pies throughout the 5 hour journey that morning. To add to the disappointment of the 1st Quarter, United cruelly lost the services for the rest of the game of top player, ‘Poncho’ Bradley with a dislocated shoulder. Roofy Ward, Crackers Brennan and Lenny were the exceptions in a lack lustre display.
While the team was disapponted with their efforts, after a cool, quiet quarter time discussion amongst the team, their was a strong resolve to do better in the 2nd Quarter. The team was also bolsted by the appearance of Basher, Forte and young Jack Thompson at the field. Apparently the three lads thought it was a 20 minute trip from Louisville to Cinci rather than the 2 hours that it actually took.
The intensity lifted ten fold in the 2nd Quarter with the River Rats sensing the biggest upset in US Footy history and United determined to reverse the flow of the game. Two quick goals to Lenny and one to Betty Palmer tightened the game up before Ohio Valley rolled the dice again and extended their lead with a couple of goals. The desire from both teams was obvious with players throwing themselves at the ball willing their team to take the momentum. First gamer Nolan McKeegan entered the fray and was an unlikely star for United and it was his hard work to get the ball to Roofy who tied up the scores at half time.
The game was balancing on a razor’s edge at half time though the feeling in the United camp was that the game had turned. Chicago’s onballers were winning plenty of the ball and were moving it quickly to the dominant Roofy and Lenny up forward. The support for each other in contests that was lacking early in the game was suddenly there with plenty of options provided to blokes stuck in tight situations. Forte moved down back to support his skipper, BJ Gambaro, and together they were wrestling control from Sueller up that end of the ground. The team knew that sticking to their style of play was going to be too much for the River Rats to overcome.
The 3rd Quarter begun very much like the first with liitle drive through the center and Coach Mustard was preparing himself for another cool, quiet discussion with his troops. While Ohio Valley once again dominated the midfield a determined defence for United prevented any scoring. Inspired by the work of Fitzy, BJ, Forte and Rocky down back the rest of the team cam to life. Great team play by Betty and Nolan resulted in Fitzy scoring a goal followed by more quality team goals to Oscar and Lenny. This was to be the last resistance from the River Rats as the remainder of the game was all Chicago. In what was a game in the balance at half time, Chicago were going into the last quarter with a 23 point lead.
The last quarter rained goals for the men from the windy city as again their quality team play and ball movement ran rings around their gallant opponents and provided plenty of scoring opportunities for their team mates. A lighter and much fitter (though I still wouldn’t let him pet the rabbits, George) Lenny capped off a great game with two more for the quarter to finish with six for the game. Young Jack Thompson provided some quality efforts in defence to once again help keep Ohio Valley scoreless for the quarter and his experience will no doubt prove beneficial in the future.
The game was over and Chicago could feel pleased with a 68 point victory after their longest road trip of the year. Our game style has again progressed from last year and helped to offset a lack of fitness which plagues the club early in the season (those damn Chicago winters). Roofy was sensational at Center Half Forward and will continue to provide plenty of opportunities for anyone who is willing to run to his feet and collect his crumbs. Crackers was the dominant onballer for our club gaining 1000 possessions through the midfield and BJ and Forte were dominant down back after quarter time. The major blow for the club is the loss of Poncho who will be desperated to beat the odds and be available for the big clash against the Nashville Kangaroos on the 30th of May.
Well done to all who made the trip. Anyone who has made a trip to Cinci can attest for it being an absolute classic experience. The game has set the scene for the club to make a charge at becoming the first MAAFL team to 3peat. Positions on the team are only going to be getting hotter with about 6 players returning to the side for the Nashville Kangaroos game on the 30th of May. Getting to trainings can greatly increase your chances of playing.
United: Ehlers (6), Bashford (2), Meyer (2), Ward (2), Fitzgerald (2), Brennan, Hoyt B, Palmer
United: Ehlers, Ward, Fitzgerald, Brennan, McKeegan, Gambaro
Rod “Basher” Bashford (arriving late for the game after driving down the day before)