Just 15 minutes before the scheduled bounce down of the first metro match of the 2016 Chicago season thigs were not looking too promising. Only a handful of players had roughed the 38 degree rainstorm and made it to Waveland Field. Although that might have been because umpire Brian Hoyt linked to the wrong field on the Facebook post about the game which led to him winning the first Golden Goose of the year. An award he fully accepted and wore all night even while he played guitar at Irish Eyes later that evening. But just as all hope was almost lost the Rhinos and Piranhas showed up in full force and before you could say "Outback Kid retirement tour" the game was underway.
From the beginning it was an epic clash in the middle as Graeme Radford battled Jason "Pony Boy" Wilhelm in the ruck. Off the initial tap Pedro Jimenez scooped up the ball and went bang through the big sticks for an early 6 points. After that the Piranhas settled in and were getting solid clearances out of the middle from Jayson Schmelzer and first Chicago gamer Shae Tulley. Those clearances led to some early marks and goals by the Piranha front line being led by Coach Woody and Brad Clifton who slotted an early goal. An early highlight was a goal attempt that rocketed off the foot of Rhino forward Trent Smith and landed square in the guts of Swans VP Stu Nicol. The sound of the ball slamming into Nicol's ribs could be heard from clear across the field...as well as the resulting laughter as Stuey crumpled in pain. At the end of the first quarter the Piranhas held an 8 point lead.
The rain continued to drop as the second quarter started. But an electric energy overtook the field as Franklin "The Outback Kid" Plummer donned the Rhino jumper and entered the game. Along with Plummer there was a look of shock on everyones face as Ryan "Hayzie" Hayes and Graham "Crackers" Brennan entered the game as well. It had been a few seasons since these two legends had been on the pitch together at the same time.
The presence of these three Chicago footy legends seemed to energize both clubs and the action was moving back and forth with both teams making the most of their efforts. Tyler "Minutes" Dorsett slotted two goals while Jeff Kraemer and Stu Nicol each got their second goals of the day. Schmelzer rewarded his hard work with a goal of his own and Joe Sweirupski who an anonymous source said "looked 10 years younger out there" slotted his first of two goals on the day. But the real action was by the back lines of both teams. The Rhinos backline was buoyed by first gamer and future prospect Ben as well as the always hard charging and hard hitting Tom Shearman. The Piranhas backline was holding their own as well with strong performances by Greg Miller who was getting a ton of the ball and Cliff Holmes who seemed to be everywhere. At halftime the Piranhas were up 6.3.39 to 5.5.35.
The rained continued to make things difficult for both teams as the premiership quarter got underway. After a stop off at Home Depot the one man who wasn't having any trouble was Paul "Garden Gloves" Enzinger. With his trademark gardening gloves Enzinger was able to take a few strong marks as well as reward himself with a goal in the 3rd. Sweirupski kicked another for the Piranhas while Kraemer was getting hot and collected his third goal for his eventual bag of five on the day. The slippery conditions were turning the game into a real street fight with skills going out the window as each team looked to slug it out with each other. At the end of three the Rhinos held a slight 3 point lead at 7.7.49 to 7.4.46.
With the 4th quarter underway this game was tighter than a camels arse in a sandstorm. From the initial bounce down though Radford started to get the best of Wilhelm and the forward clearances were being gobbled up by Smith who was getting a ton of the ball and put through 2 goals to get the Rhinos going. Kramer then followed up with a beautiful goal off the left from about 30 out all while the relentless run of Alistair Martin was starting to become too much for the exhausted Piranhas. As the quarter rolled on the Rhinos simply ran over the top of the Piranhas and kept pouring it on like a heavy handed bartender. The Piranhas got one last goal from Wilhelm but it was way too little and way too late. As the final siren went off the Rhinos celebrated a 11.12.78 to 8.4.52 victory.
Rhinos: 2.4 5.5 7.7 11.12(78)
Piranhas: 3.2 6.3 7.4 8.4 (52)
Rhinos: Kraemer(5), Dorsett(2), Smith(2), Jimenez, Enginer
Piranhas: Nicol(2), Wilhelm(2), Sweirupski(2), Schmelzer, Clifton
Rhinos: Kreamer, Radford, Shearman, Jimenez, Smith
Piranhas: Miller, Schmelzer, Tulley, Nicol, Wilhelm