Round 1- Papua New Guinea vs European Crusaders // Ransford Oval, Royal Park // August 6, 12:15pm
The European Crusaders’ International Cup did not start the way they would have liked, with a 55- point loss at the hands of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
It was the first time the Crusaders had played together as a team under coach Graham Andrews and that showed early, with a dominant first term from the fast-paced PNG side leaving the Crusaders a little bit shell-shocked. Despite being inaccurate in front of goal, PNG were able to kick three first-quarter goals and took the lead at the first change to a scoreless Crusaders.
The wintery Melbourne conditions played their part through most of the game, with wind and heavy rain affecting players’ skills. The match was a bit ugly at times in the second quarter, but the Crusaders were able to consolidate their defence. Their heavy pressure and tackling limited PNG to only one goal for the term.
The third term was strong from the Crusaders who limited PNG’s shots on goal to only two behinds. In a change from the rest of the match, the Europeans were able to lock the ball into their forward 50 at different stages in the term although they were unable to hit the scoreboard. A rucking infringement as a result of the ‘third-man up’ rule resulted in a turnover free kick, removing the Crusader’s one strong chance of a shot on goal.
The rain clouds cleared and the sun came out in the last quarter but it did little to help the Europeans. The Crusaders tired in the final term and were unable to maintain their strong defensive effort. Papua New Guinea ran amuck, kicking another two goals to finish the match 6.19. (55) to the Crusaders 0.0. (0).
Crusaders Coach Graham Andrews said after the game his side will look to improve on today’s performance.
“We’ll learn a bit from today,” he said. “It’s their first outing together and we’ll go away and try and work on the things that we didn’t quite get right.”
Co-captain Rachel Urquhart praised the effort of her team across the four quarters, despite their slow start.
“It was the first time we had everyone together and that was incredibly exciting,” she said. “I think that first quarter was a real learning curve for us but each quarter we were building, producing a better team spirit, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
The European Crusaders face fellow AFL Europe team the Irish Banshees on Wednesday for Round 2, with USA their opposition in the following match. Coach Graham Andrews said the remainder of the tournament will be a challenge for the side, but one they are looking forward to.
“The Irish have been champions in the first IC and runners up the second time around, and I’ll be surprised if the U.S. aren’t organised,” he said. “So it’ll be a couple of tough games but we’ll do our best to get through them and aim to finish as high as we possibly can.”
Papua New Guinea: 6.19. (55)
European Crusaders: 0.0. (0)
Papua New Guinea: T. Hedwick 3, P. Sindriwen, L. Malabag, V. Lai
European Crusaders: Nil
Papua New Guinea: T. Hedwick, E. Emil, T. Lavai, F. Sovara, V. Lai, M. Agita
European Crusaders: C. Duquet, A. King, C. Portal, I. Rositano, C. Perez, C. Wood
(First published on the AFL Europe website on August 6th 2017)