How good is footy in Chiang Mai? Awesome!
The Tigers headed up to Chiang Mai on Friday night/Saturday morning with two goals (no pun intended): To show some of the locals what footy was all about, and to honour the great clubman, Rutty. Seriously, the man flies 600kms each week just to train!
The boys assembled on Saturday morning, and headed out for lunch. Rut had organised songthaews to take everyone to a local restaurant, where bowls of khao soi were demolished by one and all. With lunch sorted, we collected our gear and headed to the University.
Rut and some mates had put together a great sized oval across a couple of rugby and soccer pitches, and the venue is a cracker. The Tigers were met by the soccer team from the Mass Communications Department from Chiang Mai Uni. After some introductions, groups were separated and the locals were introduced to the joys of AFL. Skills were picked up incredibly quickly, with even Babcock taking some considerate advice on handballing from Benny. Once the soccer boys had got the hang of bumping, kicking, marking and handballing, they were introduced to game situations by Rutty and Bear.
Then the moment had arrived (just like Paddy) – the first ever game of AFL in Chiang Mai was about to get underway. The teams were each made of half locals and half Tigers. At the first bounce, a controversial free kick to Dog (was it three free kicks at once or four?!) put the Reds into the forward line, where Rut fittingly scored the first goal to the delight of the crowd. The two sides traded scores for the rest of the quarter, with Paddy providing plenty of run in the engine room for the Reds.
The local boys adapted to the game right from the first bounce; hitting the ball hard, putting pressure on, running to create space, using the ball effectively and having a heap of fun. The first quarter ended with the scores very tight, and everything still to play for. Jezza had been busy showing his old man what a dangerous small forward looked like for the Blues, while Benny Giles was very busy in the middle.
The second quarter started much as the first had finished, with both teams maintaining the intensity. Lucas was covering the ground well for the Blues up forward, while Bobcock, Dog and Blade were all showing the way with their experience and disposals. As the quarter wore on, Ben Cox and Mon from the Chiang Mai team started to influence the game more and more. Mon was a big driver out of the Blues backline, providing plenty of run. BJ was making his presence felt for the Reds with his physicality around the ball and his aerial skills. Unfortunately Jom had to leave the field with an ankle injury, after looking very dangerous in the Reds forward line. Half time saw the Blue team up by a few points, with Cabbage and Gator having been able to capitalise on the good work further down the field.
The third quarter started, and although the game was still tight and the ball was hot, the Blues began to pull away. Coxy and Matty were able to keep things organised in the backline, but had their hands full with Marathon Mike and JD working hard for the Reds. The teams went to the final break with the Blues up by 3 goals, and looking like running away with it.
The final term started, and after some intense pressure on the ball, Paddy was able to waltz through the middle and slot the first goal for the Reds. Beam was the ruckman for the Red team, and had been working hard all day. He pushed forward and took a mark deep in the pocket, 20 metres out but on a sharp angle. Clearly no one had told him this was a hard shot, as the big fella casually strolled in and hit a perfect drop punt right over the umpire’s hat to nail the goal of the day. With the Reds up and about, the game was well and truly there to be won by either team. While the Reds kept coming hard, the Blues had just enough in the tank to get to the line and win by 8 points.
Both teams played a great game, with the first gamers looking like anything but. Blade presented the medal for the best Chiang Mai Uni player to Mon ‘Birchall’ from the Blue team for his tireless run out of the backline. JD was given the award for best Chiang Mai expat, just shading a massive effort from Marathon Mike. The Blues were presented with the inaugural Chiang Mai Challenge Cup.
More importantly, Bear presented Rutty with a poster, hat and signed football from the Western Bulldogs. Rut’s commitment to the club and football in general is truly exceptional. He’s a big part of indigenous footy in Asia, and we owe him a huge amount. One thing we should aim to do for him is keep the Mass Communications boys interested in the game, and bring through more indigenous players for Thailand. The weekend was a great thing to be a part of, and something that’ll only get bigger next year.
Thanks to Timmy C for the article