Game 2 - AGGM O/65's v. Mita Masters - Saturday 11th May
There's an air of expectation as we board the team bus to head out towards the ground for the first Australian Grand Masters hockey game on Japanese soil. This is a tour that has been three years in the making, with team manager Ric Roberts being the driving force for our team - Ric, we salute you !
There's a twenty minute walk from the Keio University campus to their hockey ground - is this the warm-up ? Apparently the buses are too big for the narrow lane ways. The overcast skies produce a light shower and, as the rain increases, the blue support team become equally overcast with the prospect of a choice between standing to watch the entire game or a wet derriere on the exposed seating. The teams are presented, pennants are exchanged, the Japanese choose ends and Australia has the ball. Captain Len Blyth invites central striker Warren Flower to pass the ball to the opposition as a mark of good will between the teams. Of course, the precedent has been set and there is now an expectation for Warren to repeat the gesture when Queensland play the West Aussies in Sydney !!! And clearly Lunger thinks this is the way the entire game is to be played as he gives two back stick passes to the Mita team and is deservedly given a serve by Vice-Captain Doug "Fiery" Trueman. We start to play some better hockey but the younger Japanese are quickly onto us and swing into attack. The ball is struck from near the edge of the circle, goalie Harps has the line covered .......... but no, there's a deflection and it's Simon "Thomo " Thomson who claims the goal - " It's my first goal for Japan" he cries ........he's another that is conforming to Captain Len's philosophy !!! Anton Dekens is in the thick of the play barreling a Japanese opponent and, to make quite sure that his opposite number is eliminated, proceeds to fall on top of him - he was of course advised that this was no Joke !!! By contrast Ian "Macca" MacDonald, running out on a short corner accidentally shirt-fronts his opponent who climbs back onto his feet and bows with impeccable Japanese manners. But we're back in attack and Eric Davies makes a diagonal cross to the spot from wide on the right, and there is left striker Simon "Lunger" Williams who sweeps the ball home and we're even again on the scoreboard. As the rain becomes heavier and heavier, the second half is closely fought, with Tony "Mick" Rodgers responding to Coach Claxton's grilling about tackling back after turnover balls. Billie Osborn and The Flower are linking well, while "The Don" Richards and Simon "Thommo" Thomson shoulder a massive workload in the mid-field. A Kennie Walter air shot has never been seen before, on the hockey field that is to say but, to be fair, Kenny "the Seagull" had been ailing for a day or two. It's still a goal apiece at the long break but, as we turn the ball over in attack, we are made to pay - a long ball down the left touch line out of defence finds the Mita left-wing deep in attack. A single pass to the centre opens up the defence and with Harps by now out of the circle, it's a one on one with Laurie Robinson who is left stranded. A goal down and Rod "the Rocket" Dyson ignores Harper's next call of 'mine' and takes it upon himself to clear the ball. Harps, who has made several stunning saves, changes with Brian Seboa who is to keep his scoresheet clean. We're trying to lift, "Lunger" picks up a pass into the circle and bunts it goalwards past the keeper, and there is Macca, says thank you very much, and scores in the open goal. The tempo lifts, it's closely fought with the scores level. Lunger has another chance to latch onto a cross coming through a melee of players but is adjudged LBW by the umpire so it is left to Captain Len to try to strike the winning goal from one of two penalty corners in the dying minutes. Both whistle pass the left hand post, the siren blows and the 2 - 2 draw seems a fitting finale in the context of international goodwill in Masters Hockey.
We change into best dress with tie and blazers while the rear of the team bus becomes a female supporters dressing room as the ladies change into their finery. As we arrive for the evening function at Keio University, our Japanese hosts, lined three deep as a guard of honour, break into loud applause for each one of us. Speeches and presentations are made, goalie Harps is player of the match, gifts are exchanged, the Japanese break into Waltzing Matilda, honour is done on both sides.
Mita Masters 2
Australia O/65's 2 (Goal Scorers - S. Williams, I. MacDonald)