It couldn't be much better than finals footy on a great day, with great teammates and very good competition. The Goannas headed into the Semi Finals against the only team to beat them during the regular season. The Lions used excellent running and JAFL legend Michito to beat the men in red and white by five points during the season.
With both teams fielding their best line-ups and the grand final up for grabs, it was going to be a deserved winner either way. The game started like a heavy weight prize fight with both teams kicking warning shots across the other's bow, until the Lions drew first blood with a nice little snap shot bouncer from thirty five yards out.
However, that goal would be one of only two first half goals surrendered by the Goannas. Full credit to Best on Ground Yuji "The Husband" Yamamoto for keeping his vows and marrying himself to the Lions dangerous (and punchy) full forward. The back line was fantastic all day, Yuji's superior physicality, combined with (three time) pilot-of-the-month award winner Owen Kearny's aggressive tenacity tamed the Lions' full forwards nearly completely. Complimented by a savvy move by Bash to eliminate a long time hole in the defence by keeping himself out of the game, opportunities were snuffed out like a pick-up game in Futakotamagawa.
The Goannas were quick to fire back, perhaps bemused by the aggressive play of Lions legend Michito, a great display of composure and a confident 40 meter boot got the big red and white machine in motion. Brett's goal was the catalyst to a dominant 1st half. Giving away nothing, the Great Wall of Ghirra and his midfield mates seemed to intercept every kick out, never giving the Lions the chance to build any momentum. The midfield joined by Dan "I Never Should Have Told My Brother About This" Last, Pete "Super Nintendo" Chalmers, and KC "And The Sunshine Band" Imai were impenetrable through the square.
A great play by Shin-boner, penetrating though the hot center to the Lions defence lead to a Goannas behind... The slightly off target kick was emblematic of the half, the Goannas dominant in possession and contest by not quite wearing their kicking boots. However, it was First Last, first of his name that launched the first of a enormous batch of counter attacks, gained huge territory and distribution that put the Goannas on the front step. With enough opportunities the Lizards found their range and ended the half with a 59-18 lead.
Playing in his preferred lock-down role, Oceans chased and harried the Lions top player all day, saying after the game that he wished he could "have that role every game". But the eye test had to give much credit to Jarrod Woodward; slamming into every contest, slick in possession the legal ace merged in for pocket distribution and acquired valuable territory. Tragically his wrist injury (which was totally acquired during the game and not at all in the shower afterwards) threatens his participation in the Grand Final.
The Midfield excellence continued, a memorable quarter from Jason "The Intimidator" Fan leapt to the defence of a helpless Mitch "You can't put in defence now" Stacy by standing his very tippy-toes to get face-to-collarbone with the Lions aggressor. Big Fanny let all around know that type of behavior would not be tolerated. In a composed move, the Goannas fought back the best way by helping themselves to a somewhat anti-social helping of sausage rolls. The pick of which was again from Jason Fisticuffs Fan, who snapped a beauty from 20 meters out and really got around himself.
With every opportunity to coast, the Goannas poured it on in the forth quarter, maintaining and eventually extending their lead. A tough angle Sauzzo from coach Ghirra seemed to really settle affairs after an a period of pressure from the Lions. A special mention has to go out to coach Big Sam (Ghirra, not the one going to prison). With an anonymous retired Goanna legend quoted as saying "You don't experiment in November" all of Field Marshal Ghirardello's moves were the right ones: Blaireman Mao could have written a little red book on how to launch attack from defence in place of Chris Murray. The Muzzle brought former Goanna Dean Dowey to heal in the ruck. Mitch responded to the opportunity to run up front by leading the team in both goals (4) and punches earned. Not enough can be said about Manimal Yuji Yamamoto who put the game in lock-down like the evil warden from The Shawshank Redemption.
Another big mentioned to our boys who ran away to join the Cirque. A huge effort to successfully ride the shinkansen to Tokyo, both Brett and Mitch are Totemic fixtures in a team looking to win back to back Grand Finals for the first time in many a year.
After a successful home and away season, the Tokyo Goannas find themselves in the semi-finals of the Japan Australian Football League this weekend.
They will come up against the R246 Lions who they played in the final round of the season, resulting in the Goannas’ only loss for 2016. The Lions have perhaps been the surprise packet of the competition this year, being lead strongly by Japan’s no.1 player Michito Sasaki, former-league best and fairest Dean Dowey, and powerful forward Jun Sekiguchi.
The Lion’s run proved too strong for the Goannas in their last encounter, but the Goannas will welcome back a number of key players this week including Captain Dan Last, Coach Sam Ghirardello, games-record holder Travis Wilson, and experienced on-ballers Jarrod Woodward, Andrew Shinners, and Josh Bootsma.
The Goannas will need to be back to their best if they want to turn the result and advance to their third Grand Final in as many seasons.
With the recent ledger between the two teams at 3 wins a piece, this one promises to be a belter! Make sure you get down to YCAC this Sunday to support the boys in red and white! Bounce from 13:10.