On the 18th of April the New York Magpies traveled to Florida to compete in the Easter Regional 18s tournament against the North Carolina Tigers and the Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids. After the longest and coldest winter that anyone can remember, the Magpies kicked off their 2015 campaign with two hard-fought games in 80+ degree F temperatures and intense humidity. The highlight of the trip was playing on the best football ground in North America, the Central Broward County Park, featuring a 5,000-seat grand stand, full size goal posts and the best surface east of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
USAFL media correspondent Brian Barrish covered the game for the USAFL. See his match reports below with full match replays of the day. Barrish also interviewed Magpies captain Michael Murphy.
Game 1: New York/Philadelphia 10.8.68 def North Carolina 4.1.25
Though the Magpies had a number of better players stay home in New York, the team they brought down to Ft. Lauderdale was still pretty impressive; captain Mike Murphy, veterans Andy Brennan and “Juice” Desai, as well as Grand Final hero Marcus Jankie all dressed for the black-and-white. This roster was augmented by five members of the Philadelphia Hawks, including Revo Ryan McGettigan, speedy winger Dan Greenberg, and defensive powerhouse Nick Wolk.
North Carolina, meanwhile, had a mix of veteran players and newcomers, led by captain Nick Camilleri, forward Paul Duncan, and tall man Scott Bradley. The size and height advantage would go to the Yellow and Black, and the Tigers were looking to make a good first impression to start the year, and had to get past a tough foe to do so.
But from the start, it was clear that this was going to be the Magpies’ game, and Brennan would have would could easily be considered “a day out” in the opener. He kicked two goals in the opening term, then would add five more over the remaining three quarters as Jankie, McGettigan, Alex Kwiatkowski and the rest of the midfield kept getting the ball through the Carolina defense and help set up scoring shots.
The Tigers put up a pretty good fight, however, with Camilleri propelling the ball from the back and working it through into the talls up front. Duncan, Bradley, and Justin Plumley put pressure on the New York defense, and though they wouldn’t get very many scoring shots, Carolina made them count when they did.
Up big, the Magpies pulled Brennan back into the defensive position and the Tigers started to get some momentum. But in the fourth quarter the tall redhead was back up front to finish his big game, and the Magpies stomped home by 43 points.
Check out the match replay.
Game 2: Fort Lauderdale 6.7.43 def New York/Philadelphia 2.6.18
After playing just short of an hour of footy, the Magpies had to come back and take on a Squids team that was fresh, and which had the benefit of a larger bench. Dave Regan, who debuted last season for Ft. Lauderdale, would lead his team out with fellow Aussies Troy Taseff, Morgan Carter, Jack Cuzner, and a collection of athletic Americans.
Despite all this, New York was still considered the favorite. But after one quarter, Regan’s back line play and the mobility of the Squids’ forwards seem to stifle the champions as much as the heat did. The magic that was there in game one was slow to start in the second match, and the Squids took a nine point lead into quarter time.
With the newcomer Cuzner, Cameron Pinnock, and Matt Davey playing well, Ft. Lauderdale would continue their lead into the second quarter, when Jankie and the ‘Pies finally woke up. They would amass six scoring shots in the term, digging their way back to tie the match, but only see one find the big sticks.
As their foes tired, the Squids’ fresh legs surged ahead, and at times they moved the ball around like their opponents had been known to do so many times over the years. One goal midway through the second quarter saw four pin-point passes from end to end, as Squids’ players got free of their defenders time and time again, leading to a Cuzner goal at the end of it.
Down 21-11 at half time, New York wasn’t in trouble yet, but an upset was brewing. The foot was on the gas pedal, and the Pies’ were clearly out of it despite gamely hold on.
In the fourth, Regan, who had been playing fullback, crept forward, and threw daggers into the hearts of the defending premiers, kicking a goal towards the end of the game to ice it. Ft. Lauderdale had won by 25 points, and say what you will about the New York roster and the heat and everything else, nothing could take away from the win for the Fighting Squids.
Check out the match replay.