After a 4 month lay-off, the Thailand Tigers were finally back in action over the weekend, with a short jaunt to Phuket to play Asian footy heavyweights, the Malaysian Warriors.
This match-up marked the first time Australian Footy has been played on the island province, and as a result, a healthy group of Aussie expats and curious others were on hand to see the two teams battle it out at the Alan Cooke Cricket Ground in central Phuket.
The Tigers side boasted one of its least-experienced line-ups in many years, as they took to the field with 7 first gamers and 4 under-18’s, and it was clear that it would be tough game against a near full-strength Malaysian team that were seeking revenge for the surprise defeat they suffered at the hands of the Tigers at the Asian Champs.
With the temperature working its way into the mid-thirties, it was only a cooling breeze blowing left-to-right that was keeping many players and umpires from heat exhaustion even before the opening bounce, and when the first quarter finally began, it was the visiting side that got off to the better start.
Despite Lettuce taking a strong defensive mark from their first foray forward, the Tiges seemed ill-equipped to stem the run of the warriors, and alarm bells were soon ringing as the Warriors piled on the first 3 goals in quick succession. Thankfully, the Tigers had in their keeping a secret weapon, and he was unleashed soon after, as the finest big-man in Asian footy (and probably in Asia general), Aggots, got his big mitts on his first mark and goal. A few more followed and the Tigers went into the quarter time break behind, but well within reach.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the game followed a similar path for the next two quarters, with multiple goals coming in bunches for the Warriors, followed by some magic up forward that kept Thailand within sniffing distance, but unable to bridge the gap.
By the time the final quarter had begun, a Thailand victory appeared unlikely, with injuries to a few key players (once again Samo couldn’t last a half of footy) and a fit and firing opposition, a stirring comeback appeared unlikely – and it proved to be too much for the young Tigers. After another early Malaysian goal avalanche, the Tigers managed to steady the ship and battled wholeheartedly before the final siren finally blew and signaled the opportunity to get a cold beer.
While never hitting the front during the entire game, there were many positives to take away for the Tigers, particularly with the form and ability shown by the new guys. Marcus battled manfully at half-back and showed a good turn of speed and clean skills, while ground curator Andy McMillian surprised all with confident dash and a coolness under pressure (he also seemed like he was bloody enjoying himself). Yorkie was hard and consistent in the middle, and American Jordan steadily found his way into the game and showed enough to suggest he will be a handy acquisition.
Lockii played at centre-half forward and led hard all afternoon, despite not receiving any favours from his teammates. While Sonny Bill was expectantly bustley, and young Tao came on late, took a good mark and hit a teammate on the lead, all before his 15th birthday.
Special mention needs to go to two young fellas in particular; BJ not only started in the ruck against a much bigger, older and more experienced opponent, but stayed there, contested every bounce and won his fair share of contests all day. And Lettuce, who lugged his big frame to centre-half back from the start and showed solid defensive abilities early, and good leadership skills after half-time when Coxy and Samo were missing from the backline.
Best players for the Tigers were Paddy, Sugar and Jacko who kept running hard in the centre, all racking up possessions and tackles, but BOG was an easy decision with Aggots proving absolutely unstoppable at full-forward, pulling down marks even with 2 and 3 players on him and kicking straight for 6 majors.
Q1 – 5.1 (31) to 4.1 (25)
Q2 – 9.4 (58) 7.2 (44)
Q3 – 14.8.(92) to 8.3 (51)
Q4 – 16.10 (106) to 9.6 (60)
Goals; Aggots 6, Jacko Sugar Paddy 1
Best; Aggots, Paddy, BJ, McMillian, Jacko, Sugar, Marcus.