It turned out to be a roller coaster weekend at the 2012 USAFL National Championships for New Yorkâ€™s Division 1 team with a good win over Nashville on Saturday morning followed by a close loss to Orange County in the afternoon which looked to knock the Magpies out of the tournament. However the wind (and Nashville) would intervene and the Magpies made it through to the final on percentage with a victory over Denver (and a loss by OC to Nashville). Unfortunately it wasnâ€™t to be in the final with New York going down to Dallas in a hard fought game.
New York Magpies vs Nashville Kangaroos
At 9am on Saturday October 13th the New York Magpies and Nashville Kangaroos kicked off Division 1 of the 2012 USAFL National Championships with a cracking game. Nashville had had a very successful 2012 season and the Magpies knew that they needed to be switched on from the start of the game. The midfield combination of ruckman Alex Kwiatkowski, centreman Jordan McIntyre, ruck rover Jack Taylor and rover Ojas â€˜Juiceâ€™ Desai gained the early ascendancy and gave their forwards Tai Scott, Adam â€˜Redgeâ€™ Routledge and Chris Walsh plenty of opportunities but the Magpies could only record 3 behinds before McIntyre took the goal scoring into his own hands and put through the Magpies first major. Solid defensive work from Dan Lehane, Scott McMaster and Brett Felsenthal limited the Kangaroos to a solitary point and New York led 1.3 9 to 0.1 1 at half time.
With the score close the Magpies knew that they needed to maintain their intensity for the full game and came out fired up as Chris Murray threw himself into packs and Todd Smith displayed his composure across halfback. Walsh slotted the first goal of the half for New York before Sam Mitchell added 2 more to put the game beyond Nashville. New York wanted a perfect half though and backmen Brad Davis, Mike â€˜Magicâ€™ Murphy, Toby Tornay and Jason Clifford locked down on their opponents to keep the Kangaroos from scoring all the way till the final siren. The full time score was 4.5 29 to 0.1.1
Goals: Mitchell 2, Walsh 1, McIntyre 1
Best: McIntyre, Kwiatkowski, Murphy, Smith, Taylor
Coach Glenn Ormsby praised his team for their effort saying â€˜weâ€™ve worked on eliminating our slow starts and improving our defensive side since the mid-season break and it was great to see the whole team commit to executing the game plan so successfully for both halvesâ€™.
New York Magpies vs OC Bombers
With OC beating the Denver Bulldogs in their first game, the Saturday afternoon clash between the Magpies and the Bombers became extra important as the winning team would have the inside running to make the Division 1 final. One forced change was made to the Magpies team as the injured Glenn Caldwell was replaced by Jamie Spataro. The wind had picked up and was favoring one end but co-captain Smith was lucky enough to win the toss and the Magpies kicked with the wind first up. New York capitalized early with a goal to Routledge before OC locked down and held the Magpies to 5 points for the remainder of the quarter despite the best efforts of Mike Fraietta and Paul Guarino. The Magpie defense of Nick Walker, McMaster, Felsenthal and Davis kept the Bombers from scoring and gave New York a chance in the second half. At half time the Pies led 1.5 11 to no score.
With OC kicking with the aid of the breeze in the second half the Magpies knew it would be defense that would win them the game and the midfielders stepped up their work around the ground with Taylor, McIntyre, Murphy and Tornay particularly strong in the contest. Eventually the Bombers pressure proved too much however and after a couple of points they managed to slot 2 straight goals and take the lead. The Pies had some chances towards the end of the game but couldnâ€™t add to their half time score and when the siren went OC emerged victorious, winning 2.4 16 to 1.5 11.
Goals: Routledge 1
Best: Taylor, McIntyre, Kwiatkowski, Mitchell, Lehane
Co-captain McIntyre was disappointed with the result but proud of his team stating â€˜we put it all in this afternoon and all credit needs to go to the Bombers who were the better team on the day. Weâ€™ll regroup and hope that Nashville can do us a favor tomorrow morning to give us a chance of making the finalâ€™.
New York Magpies vs Denver Bulldogs
After expecting the game to be one for pride only, New York and Denver ended up having something to play for after Nashville ran over the top of OC in the second half, winning 4.5 29 to 3.8 26 and giving both New York and Denver the chance to make the final (Denver had beaten Nashville on Day 1). With an extremely stiff breeze blowing the coin toss became extra important and Denver had the first up win, selecting correctly and choosing to kick with the breeze. New York decided to play Routledge as a spare man in defense and the strategy worked with Denver unable to penetrate the Magpies defense despite all the play being in one half of the ground. New Yorkâ€™s stable defense of McMaster, Felsenthal, Lehane, Smith, Walker, Davis and Fraietta maintained their strong chemistry and held the Bulldogs to a couple of points before Denver kicked over the mass of defenders to register their first goal. After what seemed like an eternity the half time siren blew with the Magpies having kept the Bulldogs to 1.5 11. Despite despite not scoring New York were confident of their chances going into the second half with the wind.
The Bulldogs adopted a similar defensive mindset in the second half and had 3 loose men in the New York forward line before the Magpies moved players back to keep them accountable. The result was all 36 players in the 50 metre circle and the Magpies could not score a goal, recording 2 points to around the halfway point of the term. After a clearance from the Bulldogs the Magpies pumped the ball in quickly, managing to spot up Taylor who kicked truly before a similar passage of play saw the ball land in the arms of Tom Burke, an inclusion from the Division 3 team after some strong form. Burke took his time going back and kicked truly to give the Magpies a lead, one they held onto until the end, running out winners 2.2 14 to 1.6 12. Despite the low score, the Magpies had done enough to make the Division 1 final on percentage.
Goals: Taylor 1, Burke 1
Best: Routledge, Felsenthal, Burke, Scott, McMaster
Ruckman Alex Kwiatkowski was ecstatic with the win after all seemed lost after the Saturday games saying â€˜you just never know what can happen in footy and I think ultimately we just wanted it more than Denver did. It was a really good team effort with all players putting in 100% and we managed to tough it outâ€™.
New York Magpies vs Dallas Magpies â€“ FINAL
With hurricane windâ€™s threatening the final was brought forward by a couple of hours and the Texan team had the luck of the coin toss, chosing to kick with the very strong breeze in the first half. New York knew they would need to defend like crazy for the first half and hope that they had enough left to run over the top of Dallas in the second. Once again New York dropped a couple of extra defenders back and the game was played in one half of the ground. Time and time again New York via Felsenthal, McMaster and Routledge pumped the ball out of the back line only for it to be sent straight back in and the tackling was intense until the Dallas ruckman used the wind to his advantage, roosting a 60 metre spiral torpedo through the big sticks for the first goal. Despite falling behind New York kept up their intense effort, keeping Dallas to a couple of points until Dallas strung together a couple of late goals to lead New York 3.3 21 to no score at half time.
Despite the deficit New York were confident going into the last half of footy for the tournament following their come from behind victory over Denver in their previous game. Again, all the play was in the goal scoring forward line and the congestion made it difficult for New York to convert on their strong forward pressure despite inspirational efforts from McIntyre and Kwiatkowski. Eventually the combination of the wind and New Yorkâ€™s desire proved too much and Walsh kicked the Magpies first, cutting the deficit to 2 goals. Murray marked shortly after and converted and when Walsh kicked his second with 8 minutes to go the Magpies had the running and it only seemed a matter of time before they overtook Dallas. Credit must go to Dallas however as they increased their level of effort over the last 5 minutes, holding New York to a single point and when the siren sounded it was the Texan team who cheered, beating New York 3.4 22 to 3.2 20.
Goals: Walsh 2, Murray 1
Best: McIntyre, Walsh, Felsenthal, Taylor
Coach Ormsby, while devastated to have lost a close one, was proud of his charges stating that â€˜the whole team really gave its all and there was nothing more I could have asked for or done to get the win. There is no doubt that this loss will act as strong motivation for 2013 and we hope to go one better next yearâ€™.
The story would prove not to be over after the game however as, in a final twist, the USAFL declared the 2012 USAFL National Championship Division 1 title vacant after an investigation determined that Dallas had played an ineligible player. Full details about the decision can be found here on the USAFL website.