The stage was set for a blisteringly hot encounter on a dusty, (somewhat Etihad stadium like) ground in Raleigh. After travelling with only 14 players down to North Carolina, the magpies were struck with some late outs with notable emissions from Matt “Nails” Davies, withdrawing with a bout of “food poisoning” from Virginia Beach and leadership group member, Adam “Buddy” Franklin deciding to choose a romantic getaway to Paris over footy. Very poor. It should be noted his leadership position is under review.
Despite the light numbers the spirits were high after a hydration session on the Friday night and a team breakfast at an Oyster Bar. New American recruit Cody Oliver was pumped up, wearing a Nike headband to ensure he was match ready and Mickey Hiebl was fired up to make his long awaited return after pulling a different muscle for each of his last 6 trainings and games. He was joined by our WAG MVP, Jess, his Aussie wife, who was a fantastic contributor with the lens from the sidelines.
So there we were. 33 degrees, 90% humidity and not a cloud in the sky (yet) and the Pies got off a great start with skipper Connor “Conman” Delves winning the toss and electing to kick with the wind.
The Pies got off to a good start, winning a lot of the footy early, yet struggled to convert possession into forward 50 entries and score.
Retiring veteran and legend/flog Jimmy Polulach sat up forward and gave the occasional lead, and somewhat fittingly kicked a sausage roll for his troubles.
Coach, Shane “Pud” Lowry and Conman teamed up with Dan “Danger” Lehane to get the engine room moving half way through the first half and the Pies began to have more of an impact with Magic and Lehane getting a goal each.
Heading into half time, the Pies looked in control, yet unable to capitalize on possession. Troy Danilo & Eddie Heppt both provided some good contests to begin what would become a much more interesting second half.
After switching forward, Conman was able to present and get a rare lace out kick into the forward line, marking on the 50m junction. In true Buddy Franklin form, Conman swung onto his left and put the set shot through, perhaps undoing all his good work with a floggish Jack Riewoldt finger point celebration, that left Pud gagging in the centre square.
Nonetheless, a definite goal of the year contender from the leading goal kicker for the Pies this year.
Pud began to show why he won last years best and fairest as North Carolina pulled the scoreline closer deep into the final half. Pud’s ability to break lines was much needed in a game that saw the Magpies be largely out sized by the Tigers.
Nick “Bowie” Bowman laid some big tackles in the final ten minutes and showed how his pressure is going to be useful for the Pies, going forward this year.
Rob Barone-Nugent was able to sneak a cheeky goal and add to the Pies tally.
It was clear late in the game, many of the Pies’ minds had already begun to think about playing a second game immediately following the first. There were some lapses in concentration and poor execution (and perhaps some questionable calls) that resulted in NC goals late.
Overall the Pies finished the game happy to take the points but wondering why they were unable to execute further.
A good win in an unbelievably hot encounter that fatigued the players perhaps more than expected.
New York: 5.7 (37)
North Carolina: 2.6 (18)
Goals: J. Polulach 1, C. Delves 1, R. Barone-Nugent, M. Murphy 1, D. Lehane 1.
New York vs Philadelphia
In piping hot conditions, Game 2 of the trip to North Carolina pitted the Pies against the Philadelphia Hawks. The Hawks jumped to a quick lead finding plenty of the pill out of the middle. Early on, the Pies showed signs of fatigue not dissimilar to having eaten a plate of Hush Puppies and biscuits.
However, Toby Tornay and Eddie Heppt responded by tackling Hawks left and right like plates of Eastern Carolina chopped pork. Things got cooking for the Pies as Connor “Conman” Delves and Shane “Pud” Lowry started to get their hands on the pigskin. By halftime, the Pies trailed by a margin which left plenty of hope for a comeback. Unfortunately, the Hawks had more of the secret sauce at the start of the second half and were able to extend their lead. The Pies didn’t go without a fight. Nick Bowman got in amongst it and took a shot to the chops that left a mark. Shortly after, ‘Conman’ flew for a mark going back with the flight of the ball and received an elbow to the short ribs that would make any Carolina hog blush.
‘Pud’ showed his multi-talented skill set when he proved to be a perfect step ladder for a Philly player. ‘Conman’ thought it would be appropriate to sit one on his head from a kick out, making the playing coach a sitting BBQ duck, perfectly cooked for a high flying Hawk.
The signs of a long day in the southern heat soon became evident with multiple pies going down with cramp and no pickle juice on hand to remedy. The Hawks took home the melted chocolates, but the Pies could hold their heads high knowing they gave it their all.
New York: 4.3 (27)
Philadelphia: 7.12 (54)
Goals: C. Delves 1, S. Lowry 1, M. Murphy 1, D. Lehane 1