After a false start on May 16 due to Texas’ wet summer start, the long awaited first round of the Texas Cup finally arrived as the Lonestars headed up to Austin to give their Texas rivals their best 80 minutes of swash-buckling footy. Texas footy is currently some of the strongest in the Nation with a healthy rivalry build over the past few years between Austin, Dallas and the emerging Houston Lonestars. This fixture promised to be one of the best yet…
This time the weather gods were on our side with good sunny weather forecast and delivered. Game Plan #1 – Check. Despite transportation plans being made right up until late Friday night, we had a decent squad ready to rumble.
GAME 1 vs AUSTIN
After the debacle of Austin a few weeks back, where the Lonestars snoozed for the opening 10 minutes whilst Austin gorged themselves on a goal-feast, the coaches made strict orders for ALL players to arrive 75 minutes before the first bounce. This followed by a mandatory team meeting in the center of the field at the strike of 10am. Game Plan# 2 – Check.
With 27 players for the day, the line up was solid despite missing a few of our regular stalwarts. Stand-in off-field coach for the day was Prez DB, and his side-kick and runner Chisi. The coaching orders were simple for the day – MOHFAT, Space, Accountability…plus yap, yap and more yap!
Lining up in defense and expected to be tested all day were Scotty, Ruggles, Berky on the last line needing to contain danger man Cambo, with Trig, Matt Stevens and Fielder on the HB line needing to provide rebound out of attack. Despite missing Seany, Art, Sam and Zac this was a solid looking back end.
Up forward, the starting line up consisted of Matt L sliding up to CHF, Justin playing the defensive half-forward role and second gamer Damo given license to run on the other side. The FF line looked strong with Ricko and Maxy the two dedicated targets on the full forward line with coach Dan pushing up to the HF line. Still a very potent attack even without recent newcomer Matt Pay who was injured.
However the biggest battles of the day were to be fought in the midfield, where Tommy Donnelly was backing up his best afield performance against Austin a few weeks prior to hold down Ruck again. The impressive small man department consisted of ever-reliable duo of Stu Job and Blake joined by Jessie, returning to USAFL footy – this group had their work cut out needing to contain the a very strong Austin engine room. Speed around the ground was not going to be a problem with plenty of dash from CDG and Nick Maass each on a wing.
The bench was fresh and ready to go with Beers, Josh Morris, Beardie, Bren, Mark Mac, Bomber, Robbie, Phil, and Adam Ruggles’ newest recruit DeAndre out for his first ever game…with only 1 training session under his belt. There would be plenty of opportunity for these guys out there with temperatures nudging 90 F.
The Lonestars drew Austin first up at 11am, so having the boys switched on from the first bounce was absolute key – the opening address for the boys simple - all-out aggression in the opening contests. The focus in the warm up a clear sign that the boys were ready to jump out of the blocks and serve it up to the Crows. Game Plan #3 – Check.
AND did they ever….the first contest summed it up perfectly. Tommy won a clear opening bounce, guiding the ball neatly to a darting Jessie who pumped the ball deep into the Lonestars forward-line and although unable to mark, the forwards locked in the ball and Max converted the first goal of the game within the first 2 minutes.
The Lonestars dominated the opening 5 minutes with exactly the type of footy they failed to the previous game; first to the ball, running for each other and using the space wisely. Stu, Jessie and Blake were all pressing in the midfield giving the Lonestars several scoring opportunities. Rick again proving his class up forward and Max showing his commitment for the footy.
As the half wore on, Austin started to gain ascendancy with two easy goals resulting from turnovers. The defense was challenged on several occasions as nemesis Cambo showed his customary turn of foot and agility to turn corners. Scotty certainly had his hands full and the dodgie quaddy was not helping! Berky and Trig pushed hard whilst Captain Matt was solid helping repel several Austin attacking drives late in the quarter. The Lonestars early pounce faded somewhat as their intensity dropped and use of space became less effective. The boys went into half time 2 goals down despite the ripping start.
The mood at half time was positive with the great start, though the boys knew the hardest work was still to be done with Austin to come out hard in the 2nd half. A few changes with Beers, Mark M and Beardie coming in to give a few players a needed rest.
The second half started off much tighter with both teams keen to wrestle control of the game. Austin managed to get the ball forward a few times early but Scotty, Adam Ruggles and Captain Matt ensured their shots for goal were under immense pressure, resulting in only 1 goal from several attempts. As the quarter wore on, the midfield kept the pressure on Austin as they struggled to dictate as they preferred, Tommy again showing his versatility in the Ruck with his persistent run around the field.
The forwards were getting good service from the mids and Rick made the most of it converting the first Lonestars goal of the 2nd half. This was followed by a running snap from CDG and all of a sudden it was less than a 2-goal game.
The final 5 minutes saw Austin hold more possession but again the defense stood firm with Captain Matt marshaling the full back line and Ruggles pushing the ball out with deep penetrating kicking. With 2 minutes to play, the Lonestars rebounded the ball onto the outer wing where Captain Matt combined with Fielder and Tommy to move the ball forward quickly and onto the chest of Max, 35 meters out. Max was as certain as a honeymooner and converted to bring the margin to less than 1 straight kick!!!
The final minute was a bit of a blur. The ball spent most of it in Austin’s half but Ruggles and Matt managed to quickly move the ball out of defense to a running CDG who directed a pin-point pass to coach Dan on the half forward flank. With everyone on the Lonestars bench yelling “Play On!”, Dan hesitated and went back behind the mark to survey his options. As he went back, the final siren sounded and he now faced the unenviable task of kicking for the winning goal from 50+ meters out almost directly in front. He went back for an extra yard’s run-up to get maximum distance on his kick, only for it to smack straight into the arms of the man on the mark. Would he have made the distance?....We’ll never know. Nonetheless, the boys had put in an amazing effort to push one of the competition’s best teams all the way to the line. Heads were held high. Next up was Dallas.
Houston 4. 2 . 26
Austin 4 . 4 . 28
Goals: Max 2, Matt L, CDG
Best: Tommy, Stu, Jessie, Blake, Matt S, Rick, CDG
GAME 2 vs DALLAS
With the temperature nudging 90F and coming off a small break following the massive effort almost knocking off Austin, the boys faced the unenviable task of backing up against a fresh Dallas team, who had brought almost 30 guys down for the Cup fixture. A few changes were made to the starting line-up to freshen up a few weary legs. The message was to pick up from the great finish in the previous game and attack, create space and keep the talk up.
The boys were flat from the first bounce with the Dallas midfield taking the initiative from the outset. Dallas midfielder, Rexy was having a field day in the middle, winning easy ball and driving Dallas forward repeatedly. Stu was given the job to cover him and quell the flow midway through the half, however Dallas had managed to pile on 4 goals by that time. Coach DB rang the changes getting a more stable line-up on the park to try and steady the ship. Captain Matt was switched onto Stu Rackham at full back and Tommy and Blake pushed back into the midfield.
The late stages of the half was far more even with both teams booting a goal each, Rick converting an opportunity kicking the only goal for the Lonestars in the first half. Several other chances were squandered as the Lonestars failed to take a few good opportunities to get back into the game. Late in the half DeAndre was given his first taste of Aussie Rules, thrown into the midfield - truly a baptism of fire under the circumstances. As instructed he duly threw is weight around, despite dishing out a throw with his first possession. At half time, the Lonestars went in 5 goals to 1 down, needing something special to get back into the game.
In a bid to claw back into the game, DB rang more changes including pushing coach Dan into an unfamiliar defensive role, to clear the ball from deep in the backline. Max was brought up the field and Bomber brought into the game, which had become increasingly physical. Stu found himself in the ruck after an early goal to Dallas and almost won the tap against someone 36 inches taller than him – he might have found himself a new position! Justin was working hard around the ground, as was Jessie and Trig in a bid to get the Lonestars back into the game.
As both teams tired deep into the second half, there were a couple of late tackles and bumps that the umpires didn’t happen to see. The Lonestars stood firm keeping their nerve, DeAndre responding with a hip and shoulder that Dipper would have been proud of, which the umpire judged slightly late. Tempers flared momentarily but the umpires were able to dissipate the energy.
A highlight in the second half was from Bomber as he laid a strong bear hug tackle in the middle that resulted in holding the ball decision going the Lonestars way and the Houston (& Austin) benches were loud in their praise of the big guy.
Late in the contest the Lonestars were able to claw back a couple of goals through Tommy and Justin. Wingers Nick Maass and Bren ran the game out well with Stu, Blake and Jessie finishing off on and off the bench after giving their all against a tough Dallas midfield. Tommy Donnelly was again instrumental in the ruck and around the ground, his goal later in the second half capping off a very strong game. The Lonestars finished kicking 2 goals to Dallas 3 in the second half to go down by 28 points.
Lonestars 3 . 6 . 24
Dallas 8 . 4 . 52
Goals: Rick, Tommy, Justin
Best: Stu, Tommy, Justin, Jessie, Blake, Max
~ Thanks to Zac for coming up despite still struggling with his back and being dedicated scorer/supporter whilst Chisi put up with DB’s rant on the boundary as runner and water boy. Great work fellas
~Thanks to Sonni, Val, Cate & Carolina for helping keep the boys on the field, watered and attending to injuries.
~ Finally, thanks to Austin Crows for hosting at a great Texas Cup venue at Onion Creek (which will also host Nationals this year). Those of us who stuck around for the all-comers games appreciated a few of Austin Beer Works finest ales compliments of the Crows.
Last month we celebrated Rick’s 30th birthday at Austin, this time it was Josh Morris’ turn. Firstly the players met at Easy Tiger on 6th for some dinner and a post game beer, then moved onto the Tap Room, Austin Crows’ sponsor pub. About 20 Lonestars players and friends joined Austin and Dallas and at what must go down as the best attended post-game social ever at a Texas Cup. It was awesome to see so many stick around after the game to catch up on the day’s footy!
Lonestars Member-at-Large, Phil Harford, was called to duty as the boat race captain as a tradition was born for post-game boat races to be held at each Texas Cup game. The format was for the first race to include the 3 best players from each team, whilst the second race to be contested between 4 of each clubs best beer swillers. Phil was very careful to select his boat race team for the latter race, as much pride was at stake.
Race 1 featured the 3 top Lonestars for the day; Tommy D backing up for BOG again, Jessie for a great running game and Matt Stevens who received the MOHFAT award for the day. The opposition were indeed very good footballers, but their boat race capabilities were questionable. This proved the case with the Lonestars winning comfortably, with a slick performance from each Houston player.
Race 2 was our best 4 including Tom and Jessie backing up from the race 1 with Phil and Damo also in the line up. The Dallas team looked imposing whilst Austin looked more at home on the footy field. The Lonestars got off to a slow start as Dallas powered to an early lead. The boys failed to recover finishing third as Dallas put the race beyond any doubt winning easily, and Austin pipping the Lonestars for 2nd. Phil was somewhat in shock concluding that a far more rigorous training regime was required from then forth…
Now we head to Racine, Wisconsin this weekend to take on some of the country’s best in the Central Tournament. Let’s finish off the first half of the season strong before we take a good summer break!
Written by ~ Prez DB