After a week of torrential rain in Houston, the University of Houston turned out a ripping playing surface considering the pitch inspection passed by a hair at 3pm the day before. This was Ruggles Cup day, one of the most important games on the Lonestars Calendar. The game played annually as the Houston home game between Baton Rouge and Houston in memory of the late and Lonestars great team mate Craig Ruggles who passed away tragically in 2013. Austin also made the journey across Texas to join in a 3-way giving the Lonestars a taste of Texas Cup style footy early in the season.
The Lonestars have been getting strong numbers to training all year and as the first home game of the year and with good player availability, 2 full sides were picked; Matty Stevens and Fielder the 2 Captains. Both teams had a good mix of experienced and new players so there was plenty to be excited about!
Game 1 - Austin v Houston
The first 18-a-side game for the new-look Houston Lonestars saw the Crows jump out of the blocks quicker than Usain Bolt catching the Lonestars flat footed. With their fast, free flowing style akin to the current Hawthorn AFL team, they moved the ball swiftly out of the middle and to a very open forward line at will in the first half. The Lonestars couldn’t get their structures going which meant their ball movement was more like a game of amateur rugby than they would like. In all, the first half ended with Austin dominating and leading by 4 goals at the break. Jesse “Member-at-large” Carcamo was a shining light for the Lonestars also with some really strong signs from Art Livingstone clone Zach “Diesel” Davis, newcomer Dave “The Man” Restrepo, and Aussie veterans Simon “Goose” Thompson and Blake “Fertile” Hodson.
Whilst the Lonestars left the stage like Barry Manilow in the first half, they strutted out like Mick Jagger in the second. All of a sudden the boys were in Austin’s face, getting numbers to the contest and moving the ball with some zing. The second half became an arm wrestle, with Jesse continuing to be everywhere, Dave “The Man” Restrepo continuing to dart around like a pesky wasp, and Simon “Goose” Thompson standing tall in the big-man department. This allowed Rick “Man from Adelaide” Veroude to get on the end of some better delivery into the forward line and even sneak through a long sausage roll (very generously awarded by goal umpire Peter Devlin). Austin still managed enough patches of momentum in the half to bang through a couple of 6-pointers along with several missed shots. The second half ended up more or less even on the scoreboard confirming that Matt’s team had well and truly held their own, returning a solid start to the day.
Goals: Rick Veroude, Dave Restrepo 1
Best: Jesse Carcamo, Zach Davis, Simon Thompson, Blake Hodson, Dave Restrepo
Game 2 - The Ruggles Cup - Houston v Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge brought a squad of a dozen troopers down the I-10 and so were bolstered by a good mix of Austin players to make for a good 18-a-side game for the coveted Ruggles Cup. The game traditionally exemplified by the style of footy played by Craig himself, this game started in a somewhat cautious manner but quickly escalated to become the physical game it was billed to be. Houston took the initiative early with some good penetrating ball movement early on, although found it tough to find the big sticks. Newcomers John “Big Sexy” Bourke and “Big Jeff” Jamnik found their first USAFL footy to their liking whilst Zac “Diesel” Davis continued from the first game to present as an option and pursue the hard ball. Exciting recruit Mike “Everywhere” Monahan worked his way into his first official game of Aussie Rules with his old man Dave in support on the sideline. The first half saw the Lonestars take a couple goal lead, though they felt they should have put more on the scoreboard.
The Lonestars cranked another gear in the second half with JD and Beers working tandem in the ruck, Dave “The Man” Restrepo working into the game, and if from triple J “Unearthed”, the next wave of future Lonestars in “Fit Dave” McVay, the two Robs - Rob "Soaps" Sudbay, Rob "Telephone" Boothy, and Mike “Everywhere” Monahan starting to really get a taste for the game and have impact. Andrew “Blanket” Craig was as tight as a prophylactic on the half backline whilst Zach “Diesel” Davis kept running and providing options through his incessant voice. Baton Rouge fought the game well in the middle but the Lonestars didn’t relent keeping them scoreless for ther game. At the other end of the field Matty “Baby” Leinbaugh and “Big Jeff” Jamnik presented and kicked truly to help put the game on ice with the Lonestars running out comfortable 5 goal winners. The jubilant Lonestars belted out the team song for the first time of the 2016 season - it won’t be the last!
Baton Rouge 0.0.0
Goals: Jeff Jamnik, Matt Leinbaugh, Blake Hodson, John Bourke 1
Best: Zach Davis, John Bourke, Jeff Jamnik, Matt Leinbaugh, Dave Restrepo, Mike Monahan, Dave McVay
Game 3 - All-Comers Game
The remaining footy was played in an all-comers format with Neil “Who’s Shout is it” Stebbing taking the reins in the coaches box. The opening of 3 quarters was a one-way affair with an Austin All-comers dictating the flow of the game and slamming home multiple goals in succession. Neil rang the changes and a more balanced side steadied the ship as the quarter rolled on. “Fit Dave” McVay was really finding his football feet getting plenty of ball with his lightning run. Zach “Diesel” Davis combining with John “Big Sexy Bourke through the middle to give the “Tiger-Stars” some sting in their tail.
The second quarter was more even, though Austin were able to find the big sticks more readily than the Tiger-Stars. Zach “Whykill” Weikel showed his teammates how to run in a straight line on a few occasions, whilst up forward Matty “Out of my way” Parton provided a good target up forward and applied boa-constrictor like pressure to keep the ball in. Dave “Grins” McNair also learning by drinking from the firehose how to hold down full back position taking on some very handy forwards in Cambo and co and doing a solid job.
The final quarter was a battle of attrition as 120 minutes of footy had been played to that point and legs were getting wearier than a cattleman’s dog. That is all except “Fit Dave” McVay. In a display that could have been confused with the energy of the first quarter of the day, Dave found himself all over the park and putting his body on the line to gain possession or assist his team in doing so. Ably assisted by Andrew “Blanket” Craig and Captain Matty “The General” Stevens, the final quarter proved to be a solid finish to a long day of footy. Whilst the Crows All-comers prevailed, the Tiger-Stars held their head high and had earned their post-match refreshments.
Score - Can’t remember
Goals - Think we kicked a few
Best Players: John Bourke, Zach Weikel, Matt Parton, Dave Anastas, Dave McNair, Matt Stevens, Andrew Craig, Dave McVay
In all, after 7 quarters of solid footy and a well fought out Ruggles Cup, the day was a huge success on the field. Zach “Diesel” Davis was awarded the Craig Ruggles Most Courageous medal for a very impressive and tough performance over several quarters. MOFHAT awards, awarded to the select players that fought hard for their mates and had intensity at the ball deservingly went to Jesse “Member at Large” Carcamo, Zach “Diesel” Davis and debutant “Fit Dave” McVay.
With over a dozen players playing their first ever full game of Aussie Rules football and several Aussies joining after long career layoffs from the game, there is plenty to like about the Lonestars in 2016. There's only improvement to come - get on board!!
Thanks to all those who helped set up the field in the morning including the tables, canopies and kit (out of the trunk of a car Fielder!) as well as those who stayed around and packed up. Thanks to Peter Devlin, Kylie Devlin and Brad Mitchell for goal umpiring. To Seany's parents for operating the scoreboard and packinh up. Thanks to Cate & Sarah F for working the canteen for lunch and a special tahnks to Sam Donnelly, Seth and DB for arranging the field reservation dsespite the nervous wait on Friday for the pitch inspection. The day went smoothly due to the help of many at the club which is greatly appreciated by all. Let’s keep this continuing at our home and away games.