Saturday the 21st of July was the 2nd annual Madison Australian Rules football Tournament with teams from all over the Midwest converging to claim the coveted title of Madison Tournament and un-official Midwest champions! Link to the day below:
The tournament itself was a sight to be seen with strong teams arriving from Minnesota, Columbus OH, Chicago and Kansas City to play on the main 18’s field and Des Moines, Ohio valley and Milwaukee battling it out for the 14’s championship. The day was a sporting tribute to the other side of the world with cricket being played across the parking lot. From a team perspective, Milwaukee were looking forward to the competition following strong showing and overall 2nd placing in last years inaugural tournament behind eventual winners Minnesota. Milwaukee’s hopes were bolstered for a second good showing in 2012 with the sighting of self-proclaimed club legend and ladies man Daniel (Dingo) Higham turning up in a blue convertible mustang with leggy blonde by his side moments before the first bounce. Before the game however the Bombers looked lethargic and were struggling to get dressed in time for warm-ups, causing new coach Regan Atkinson to question his players commitment. The whisper was that Milwaukee’s first opponent the Des Moines Roosters were a much improved unit and had recruited some impressive new talent. Therefore, Coach Atkinson wanted to make a statement early on. Unfortunately for the Bombers they started the game as lethargically as they had gone through the warm-up. Beaten in the middle early, the Bombers made a mess of it when going forward. Mistakes were sucking the life out of the Bombers – typified by O’Connor’s dropped chest mark early on within scoring range which was swiftly moved down the other end of the ground by the Roosters for a score. Despite being down early, the Bombers held hope for a rally. They had been down early before against the Roosters only to run over there newer rivals late in the game. Poor kicking and missed handballs thwarted the Bombers efforts to gain momentum however, with a lack of ex-coach O’Connor’s revolutionary box kicking drill at training in 2012 showing! The Roosters weren’t giving the Bombers any chance to regain control either, making sure the keep the pressure on the scoreboard. Despite being covered by Milwaukee’s best defender Andrew ‘Rewster’ Bradle, the Des Moines full forward was beginning to take control of the game, and as long as Des Moines was kicking goals Milwaukee were not going to be able to get back in the contest. After a spray from the coach at half time, the Bombers were more competitive in the second half. First gamer Nate was putting his hand up for best afield, while Doren James and Regan Atkinson sprung to life to take some of the weight of the Dingo’s enormous shoulders. A half time move to send Plugger Okeefe dropping back in front of the defensive goal was also paying dividends as the big man mopped up across half back for the Bombers and released Heath Moore to use his trademark run and carry out of the backline. An impressive looking Jeremy Moore was starting to bother the Des Moines defense with his regained athleticism sneaking in for multiple shots on goal. In the end though, the first half deficit was too much for the Bombers to overcome, the Roosters running it out to a clear victory and leaving the Milwaukee players to ponder what might have been in their first ever defeat to Des Moines.
After a strong finish to game 1 the Bombers were ready to regroup and take on the Ohio Valley River Rats in game 2. In the interim, Ohio had beaten Des Moines, so the job was in front of Milwaukee if there were to get into the winners circle. A couple of key inclusions however suggested the task may be far from impossible. Arriving from the Hamptons, Matty ‘Lawman’ Lynch was having an unusual moment of sobriety and was ready to go. Club great and full back Kurt Landers had also arrived adding some experience and stiffness to the backline. From the opening bounce Milwaukee showed they were not going to roll over. Early on it was goal for goal with Richard Thompson kicking his first ever after a strong mark and the Dingo chipping in for 6 points each. Milwaukee again were struggling in the ruck as they have so often over the years and it was costing them first use of the ball. The hot conditions were also beginning to take their toll and it looked like Ohio were the team with more legs. Every time Milwaukee scored, Ohio had the quick reply and gradually built a lead to come out comfortable winners in the end and take the 14’s championship. Milwaukee showed a lot of spirit in the second game but skill errors and fitness cost them. While from a club perspective the results were disappointing for Milwaukee, overall the day was a great success for Wisconsin and USA football. In only its second year the Madison Tournament is a ‘can’t miss’ for footy fans in the Midwest and a fantastic day for all. Special thanks go out to Doren James who organized the tournament for a job well done! It can only help grow footy in the region.
The word from State St after the game is that everyone had a great time catching up and having a drink with their opponents in this great Midwest college town. The Scud found the going difficult after the loss of wingman Higham who has clearly gone soft, describing it as a bit of a ‘sausage fest’ late. A struggling scud is nothing new however, and word has it others were having more success – although ‘success’ is a relative term. Milwaukee has home games coming up against Des Moines and Chicago and the players will be desperate for a win. Right now there is a low murmer for Coach Atkinsons head, and a win may be the only thing stopping it from growing into a bellowing chorus, as he pleads for more time to develop his team after a horrific start to 2012.