Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Ball in a Triangle Print E-mail

soccer_intro.jpgOn the afternoon of 20 September 2014, the Annual Bar Soccer Tournament was held at BBC’s grounds in Brisbane between the three eastern seaboard States.  The Queensland crowd consisted of Andrew Luchich’s mum, Paul Favell, Wayne Cochrane, my dog Cherry, and me, and I have decided to cast myself as your historian.

Discerning readers will wonder how an entire soccer tournament can be compressed into a crisp Toowong afternoon – and the answer is “frenetically”.  Except for ten minutes of downtime, three games are played back to back.  I gather that, in years past, when the Sydneysiders have hosted the event, they have cunningly contrived to rest themselves in the middle game so that, much to the chagrin of the opposition, they were fresh twice over. But rather than rail churlishly against such tactics, the Queenslanders have embraced them.  So Queensland played Victoria, Victoria played New South Wales, and finally, New South Wales played Queensland.
Now I could step you through that first game but, frankly, I didn’t get there in time and I heard it wasn’t that memorable.
soccer_2.jpgDisturbingly, whilst the Garden State was supposed to have lost its mojo this year, the pesky Vics were up 2-1 with ten minutes to go (after Scott Hooper had hammered home a left-footed screamer for Queensland).  But then Joe Morris sweetly lobbed the goal keeper before David Chesterman cleaned up a rebound, and the Maroons bagged the points. Unfortunately, one of our best defenders, Chris Crawford, paid the ultimate price with a nasty injury in defence, but the rest of the team marched on.

So then Victoria played New South Wales.  The Victorians started sluggishly (as you would expect, having just played two halves of football) but they were assisted by some spirited Queensland cheering from the sidelines. And you suddenly realised that New South Wales actually plays a similar role in the Federation to England in the Commonwealth. Everybody hates them. Or, more accurately, everybody “lifts” for them. And God bless Victoria, they lifted. Pulled ahead of the NSW team, and then started peppering them with shots, until they ran out winners.

You could see that things were set up nicely. The Queenslanders had been draped over the BBC grandstand, resting and sunning themselves like a band of land iguana, and now they took to the field, resplendent in their maroon jerseys (except, of course, for their goalie, Dan Favell who looked fabulous in yellow).  Lee Clark kicked off for the Maroons, and they were quickly dominant. In fact, the game had only been going for about 3 minutes when someone got the ball to Joe Morris and this weird thing happened. He could only have been 10 metres in from half-way but, from a standing start, he turned and drove the ball low and straight like Lionel Messi.  The keeper did everything right, but he was simply outclassed. When next we saw the ball, it was lolling around in the back of the net and I was reminded of that quote, implausibly attributed to Wendell Sailor (There’s no “i” in “team” but there are five “i‘s” in “individual brilliance”).
At this point, I was certainly thinking that, for a strategy going forward, “get it to Joe Morris” might be the ticket but, under the careful captaincy of John Selfridge, the Queenslanders kept their shape and their discipline.  Lee Clark, Scott Hooper and Jens Streit were camped in the NSW half like a besieging army. Even on the rare occasions when NSW made some inroads, Josh Fenton was a brick in defence, whilst Holly Blattman, Guy Andrew and the Captain combined in the midfield to deftly pass the ball forward, or just hoof it out of harm’s way. My personal favourite was Andrew Skoien who, amidst all that rampant youth, was doing it for the Dads, charging up the right wing, all pink and white and puff, crossing to Joe, and taking a shot late in the half that only missed the goal by the woodwork.  But sadly, very sadly, even though the Maroons had been running with the wind, when the half time whistle blew, they only had the one goal to show, and you had the feeling they might rue their lost opportunities. 

Now Johnny Selfridge pulled the team in at the break and gave them a talking-to about being aware of their fellow players and trusting them (oh, and how, if they weren’t running, he’d be pulling them straight off). I’m not sure what else he said but it was forthright and stirring and those bloody Sassenach were really going to get it. All the same, the NSW bloke must have been even better because, when the Blues came out again, they were a changed team. They were running for everything and they seemed to have worked out that their best chance lay in using the wind to bomb the Queensland goalmouth with high balls.  That simple tactic, combined with their new energy, should have seen them pile on three or four goals, except for one thing - the Head of Andrew Luchich.  There was all this mayhem happening at ground level, but somehow the HAL hovered above the field at 6’4” like some shiny drone.  Whenever the ball was sent towards the Queensland goal, the HAL was there a fraction earlier, sending it back with the steady resolve of an Atari blip.  All the while, Favell the Younger stayed desperate and effective in the net when needed but, happily, that was kept to a minimum.

And then the Queenslanders seemed to regroup.  Michael Hodge and Rob Glenday were being rotated through the bench to give fresh legs up front.  Florence Chen was used cleverly as an impact player, making threatening incursions down the left wing - all the time protesting that she wasn’t really a striker.  And Eoin Mac Giolla Ri chimed in for some short, intense, physical runs through the centre. (I’d like to call him an impact player too, but I think he just needed a rest now and then…)

Hodge and Clark broke from the NSW defence after about 20 minutes. Clark feinted left to Hodge, fooling the keeper (and Michael) before he moved effortlessly to his right and gently pushed the ball home. It was two-nil to the Mighty Maroons. Even better, the NSW team was descending into some internal blame-storming whilst their support base (i.e. their wives and children) had drifted away to play with Cherry.  Minutes later, Skoieny galloped up the centre. He smacked the ball at the posts but it hit the goalie and the two of them seemed equally stunned, leaving Hodge to swoop in and net the ball.  With a minute to go, Scott Hooper crashed through again, and the New South Wales team looked more relieved than sorry when the full-time whistle froze the score at 4-0.
It turns out that the tournament is much more than three states testing each other through sweat. There is a Sports Law Conference in the morning and a reception in the evening. The players would like to thank Anthony Brown and Stuart Carter, who arranged MLIG’s involvement. They had already provided jerseys in earlier years and for 2014 they gave $1,500.00 towards the event. They’d also like to thank the staff of the Bar Association who assisted in hosting the conference and Tank Restaurant for sponsoring the reception.

Can I conclude for the Queenslanders by saying thank you to the referee, Anthony Lo Surdo SC, a highly regarded trade practices silk from Sydney who brought a precision to his role that was a treat to watch?  Anthony tells me that he changed his flight so he could stay the night, and the Queensland team took him to Tank where they joined the interstate players for some rowdy reflections.  So maybe the bar on the eastern seaboard just got a little bit closer.
Your man on the sidelines,

Damien Atkinson


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