AFL Central and Northern England Grand Final- Manchester vs. Leeds in Manchester

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That one day in September, or in this case July, had finally arrived. Hosting the AFLCNE Grand Final for the first time in its history, Manchester had qualified courtesy of a big win over Sheffield in their elimination Semi Final. Their opponent Leeds had gone through the season undefeated and had qualified for their first ever Grand Final after surviving a scare from Birmingham in their Semi Final.

Mid week saw an excellent performance on the training track. Andy Hosking made the cut replacing “Rhino” Gillan whilst Sam Boyd made his long awaited return from injury to replace Peter Cunningham.

The boys were greeted with a superb looking Burnage deck, blue skies overhead and a fantastic group of supporters on the hill. Many former Mozzies- amongst them former premiership player / coach “Baz” Sproule and premiership defender and former President Brendan Edwards- were in attendance.

The first term

With a couple of late alterations to the starting line-up made- namely returning utility Sam Boyd into the ruck, Marc Wyss into the middle and Matt Kilheeney deep in defence- the game got underway. Leeds, as expected, fielded their strongest line-up and came out with all guns blazing. The Mozzies, kicking to the clubhouse end and lead by courageous rover Jake “Burra” Norris scrapping for every possession, did not buckle under the withering assault . No major scores were posted for the first 7 minutes as both sides missed goal scoring opportunities. If anything Manchester had the run of play during this period with Matt Wielgosz and Lachie Daff presenting themselves and “Spike” Kilheeney roving well up forward. Wyss finally posted the first major of the day, kicking truly from mid range. Moments later however “Spike” Kilheeney limped off with a pulled hamstring, ending his day barely before it had begun. Leeds countered with a quick reply and then began a sustained assault on the Mozzies defence. The run of the Leeds on-ball brigade overwhelmed Manchester. Their precise foot skills and rapid fire decision making causing headaches for Budd Norris and “Bundy” Lindop in defence who were frequently forced to take desperate measures to keep the Minotaurs at bay. Sam Boyd was working hard around the ground in his first game back from injury since round 6, whilst up forward Ric Clarke who came on for “Spike” Kilheeney was giving a contest and taking some timely grabs. Four goals in succession to Leeds however put them on the front foot.

Manchester were not without their opportunities during the second half of the first term, Clarke proving creative, with Wielgosz  and Wyss both failing to convert difficult chances. At the quarter time huddle the Mozzies had a deficit on their hands to the tune of 31 points.

The second term

The second quarter started in much the same vain as the first with both sides locked in arm wrestle. Again Manchester’s forwards had early opportunities that were not converted. Leeds defensive pressure was immense with key forward Matt Wielgosz in particular coming in for some heavy attention. Boyd and “Burra” Norris continued their tireless work around the ground. “Burra” was getting buffeted at every contest but such is his resilience, he was still able to win the lion’s share in his duel with Leeds young gun Ben Eddy. In defence Budd Norris and “Bundy” Lindop were joined by Lachie Daff and were putting up a tremendous fight against increasingly overwhelming odds as the quarter progressed.

Much like the first quarter Leeds broke the backs of Manchester from the midway point of the second term with forward Will Newton’s unerring accuracy hurting the Mozzies on three occasions. Marc Wyss joined “Burra” Norris in lifting his game to try and inspire the Mozzies but it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the second term when Ric Clarke converted a difficult set shot from a tight angle that Manchester posted a major. Across half forward the Mozzies were breaking down as tempers were beginning to fray against the bigger Leeds defence, veteran Dean Thomas lucky to not attract the ire of the umpires in a clash at half forward and later on the wing with nimble Leeds rover Paddy Brown. As the first half came to a conclusion it was clear for all to see that Manchester were in trouble. They had not played badly and were in fact probably only hurt for 6 – 8 minute periods in both quarters but those periods had yielded the Minotaurs a comprehensive half time lead of 54 points. The statistics were damning with Leeds having 9 more scoring opportunities than Manchester in the first half, 6 of which came in the first term, with the 9 extra scoring shots equating exactly to the 54 point difference.

Problems were developing in the rotations as well. “Spike” Kilheeney’s inability to take any further part had greatly hurt the side’s forward rotations. Budd Norris was in difficulties at half time, and would be forced to start the second half on the bench along with Sam Boyd who had given his all in the first half. Despite finding themselves in a precarious situation the Mozzies did not drop their heads and with several changes made, the second half commenced.

The third quarter

Referred to as the Premiership quarter. If Manchester were going to get back into the game they had to win this term and win it well. Almost immediately some of the changes that the Mozzies made at the long break began to have an immediate effect. Ben Sweetman, who had had limited opportunities in the first half, commenced in the ruck and began wielding an influence immediately. Skipper Matt Kilheeney moved back into the centre to partner “Burra” Norris whilst Marc Wyss, in an inspired coaching move, was switched to half forward to add pace. Wyss was inspired and lit up the ground with some searing run and weaves through traffic to start the process of dragging Manchester back from the brink. He kicked two for the term and unluckily hit the post on a third occasion. Deeper forward, Matt Wielgosz was involved in an intriguing physical battle, often with two opponents. Wielgosz was forced to lead further up the ground to break the attention and was now giving Manchester a real focal point. He took a crunching hit on a lead but bounced straight back.  A snapped shot from Wielgosz on the tightest of angles, after some superb ball winning from “Burra” Norris up the ground and then Wyss across half forward, hit the post three quarters of the way up. Moments later Wielgosz fought to outpoint his opponent to take a contested mark in front. The set shot slid to the right but the Mozzies seemed to be fighting back.

In the back half “Bundy” Lindop continued his battle of wills with Newton who again hurt the Mozzies on the scoreboard with accurate kicking. Rookie Aman Singh who came on for Budd Norris, was giving a magnificent account of himself at half back, strangling his opponent’s space and fighting to distribute the ball out of congestion. For Singh it appeared to be a watershed moment as his confidence and self belief grew with every won contest. Key defender Lachie Daff rolled his ankle on the wing at a time when the Mozzies could ill afford it, another player whose day was about to end early. Justin English entered the fray and like Singh, gave a magnificent account of himself against key forward Dave Scarsella. English took two timely grabs on the last line and punched away a Scarsella mark attempt before handing off to Wyss who surged the Mozzies forward again. The term ended with Manchester having had 10 scoring shots to 6. Frustratingly the Mozzies had only converted 3 of those for goals with two hitting the post. Manchester through “Burra” Norris, Sweetman and Matt Kilheeney had dominated the centre clearances whilst Marc Wyss had been simply magnificent across half forward. For all their efforts however, Manchester had only been able to reduce the half time deficit by 4 points. At three quarter time the margin stood at 50 points, the Grand Final seemingly lost.

The final term

Even the most ardent Mozzie supporter would have been putting away their voice for the final term, hardly surprising, given the deficit. A man by the name of Marc Wyss clearly had other intentions. With Sweetman winning yet another tap to “Burra” Norris at the opening bounce, Wyss was released and kicked towards goal. The shot was forced through for a behind but an air of change had suddenly crept over the ground. Leeds appeared slower, tired and perhaps content in the knowledge that they had a big lead. So the fight back began.

If his third quarter was electrifying then there are no words in the vocabulary to describe his fourth. Wyss was unstoppable as he tore apart his opponent. In the space of 9 minutes he had four more goals to his name to bring the margin back to 30 points. Wielgosz and Clarke were fighting tenaciously up forward. Boyd had been moved to half back to support Budd Norris and Lindop and were rebounding Leeds’ forward moves whilst Sweetman was magnificent in the ruck. “ Burra” Norris was Wyss’s support act getting the ball forward from the scrimmages. Into the second half of the term, Manchester were seemingly  dealt a killer blow when the star of the moment Marc Wyss limped off. Moments later however there were several hard fought contests in the middle of the ground before a huge lunging Dean Thomas tackle brought a Leeds defender to ground. The ball flew free where “Burra” Norris swooped and nailed the long range goal off two steps from centre half forward. Suddenly there were only four goals in it.

Coming from so far behind and without their key players being able to take a breather, closing the gap further was always going to be a big ask. Risks had to be taken and as such Leeds swooped on a turnover. Thomas ran his man down on the wing but not before his hurried kick found a leading Dave Scarsella with Justin English in hot pursuit. Scarsella converted the long goal to break the hearts of the Manchester faithfull. When Will Newton,- who had had the ability to appear at just the right time all day- kicked truly again and followed it with another shortly after, the game was lost. The boys fought it out to the end but when the final siren sounded the premiership was not to be theirs. 

                             1st              2nd          3rd         4th

Leeds                   6.4            11.7         14.10    19.12     (126)

Manchester          1.3              2.7           5.14    11.17      (83)

 

Goals: Wyss 6, Clarke 2, Wielgosz 1, Sumner 1, J. Norris 1.

Best: Wyss, J. Norris, Sweetman, Boyd, Clarke, Lindop, B. Norris.

 

Manchester Grand Final Line-up

Backs:  B.Norris  A.Lindop   Matt.Kilheeney

Midfielders: J.Norris  M.Wyss

Ruck: S.Boyd

Forwards: Mike.Kilheeney   L.Daff    M.Wielgosz

Interchange:  B.Sweetman

                        D.Thomas

                        J. English

                        A. Hosking

                        R. Clarke

                        W. Sumner

                        A. Singh

Player Review

Budd Norris: Tried hard all day. Provided his trademark run from the back line.  Like much of the Mozzies defence and midfield, was overrun during the Leeds first half onslaught. Despite suffering an injury just before half time, put in another solid performance. One of Manchester’s best.

Alisdair Lindop: Another defender who never gave in. Found himself matched up against some of Leeds prime movers and didn’t disgrace himself with a typically competitive performance. Always put his body on the line and showed some dash off half-back. Will be sorely missed next season.

Matt Kilheeney: Was known to be disappointed with his own performance. Such are his own high standards, but he was by no means ineffective. Worked his way into the game as it progressed. Started in the backline on Leeds target Andy Ellis before moving into the middle in the second half. Was one of the prime movers in the second half fightback. A good effort as he was hampered by a back injury.

Jake Norris: Another superb performance from this courageous on-baller. Was Manchester’s leading midfielder for the day as he fought for every possession and kept his opponent honest. Had minimal recovery time on the bench and played with a broken hand which only exemplified his efforts. Kicked a superb goal in the final term to keep the Mozzies in it. Never gave in. A fitting performance to a stellar season.

Marc Wyss: Came into the game with a suspect hamstring but you wouldn’t have known it. Started in the middle where he toiled hard before lighting up the ground in the second half with a superb display across half forward. Leeds had no answer to his run and dash as he cut swaves through the Minotaurs defence in the 3rd and 4th terms, kicking goals and setting up others. Limped off with an injury midway through the final term which coincided with Leeds steadying to pull away. A performance which surely challenged for best on ground honours despite the loss. The Mozzies best, and winner of the O’Neill’s Man of the Match award.

Sam Boyd: Started in the ruck in his first game back since round 6 after suffering a rib injury. Battled hard all day in his first Grand Final, showing signs of his capabilities with some excellent clearance work off his own ruck taps. Worked hard around the ground but the weeks off with injury began to take their toll late in the day. One of Manchester’s better performers.

Mike Kilheeney: Was desperately unlucky to tweak his hamstring in the warm-up. Started the game regardless and was causing his opponent problems during the first half of the first term before his hamstring went completely and ended his day prematurely.

Lachie Daff: In his last game for Manchester started forward after his 4 semi final goals and gave the Mozzies an attacking option early. Was moved to defence at quarter time and helped add a bit of steadiness to the back half. Was coming into the game well when he rolled his ankle in the third term and subsequently spent the remainder of the day on the sidelines.

Matt Wielgosz: Came into the game averaging 11 goals per game over the last three rounds and was subsequently heavily checked by Leeds throughout. Was starved of opportunities for much of the first half but was as influential as anyone during the second half resurgence. Took a big hit in the 3rd term but bounced back to take some strong marks and be involved in goal scoring opportunities.

Ben Sweetman: Had long stints on the bench in the first half but was instrumental in the 2nd half as Manchester clawed their way back. Got on top in his ruck duel with Leeds big man Ali Knowles at the centre bounces and around the ground giving his on-ballers every opportunity. Another performance that showed his great value to the side.

Dean Thomas: Spent long periods on the bench, particularly in the second half on account of the effectiveness of his fellow rotating midfielders, but when on field struggled to gain his usual quota of possessions and exert his usual steadiness.  Laid a big tackle in the last quarter that assisted in the Mozzies getting another goal but for the most part a quiet day.

Justin English: Fought exceptionally hard in the backline when he came on and won the majority of his contests. Took some timely grabs deep in defence, spoiled well and showed some dash from the last line. Limped off late in the third term with a leg problem but returned for the final quarter.

Andy Hosking: Played a relieving role for Wielgosz up forward and didn’t disgrace himself in his first Grand Final by providing a target and giving a solid contest against a tough opponent.

Ric Clarke: Was called on earlier than expected after Spike Kilheeney’s injury and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Gave a real contest up forward, kicking two goals, assisting in others and laying some hard tackles. One of his best performances for the club.

Amandip Singh: Came on at the beginning of the second half. Safe to say that he saved his best performance for the year in the biggest game of the year, his first Grand Final. Was at no stage overwhelmed by the occasion as he tackled, smothered and blanketed his opponent whilst disposing of the ball effectively out of congestion.  A great effort.

Wayne Sumner: Another player who was required to have a greater influence after Spike Kilheeney limped off. Worked as hard as anyone to give a contest up forward and was not disgraced. Found himself matched up on bigger opponents which made for a tough day.

 

Semi Final vs. Sheffield in Leeds

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That time of the year, Finals, had finally arrived. Manchester had secured second spot on the league ladder and would face third placed Sheffield Thunder for the right to advance to the AFLCNE Grand Final for 2013.

Most interest during the week on the training track had focussed on whether several key Mozzies could prove their fitness to be available for selection. Midfielders Jake “Burra” Norris, Matt Kilheeney and Dean Thomas were of most concern whilst there were also queries over playmaker Marc Wyss and utility Sam Boyd. After a stirring Thursday night session by all members of the Manchester squad, all five proved their fitness with Kilheeney, Wyss, Norris and Thomas being selected and Boyd being named an emergency. The unlucky omissions from the previous week were key position player Andy Hosking, midfielder Billy Wilson, forward Jordan Gurry and defender James Connor.

The Manchester coaching staff pulled some surprises before the game, naming key defender Lachie Daff to start deep in the forward line and backing tagger Aman Singh to run with Sheffield captain Garth Nevin.

Starting in overcast conditions with light winds and a mild temperature on a rock hard Leeds pitch, the Mozzies made a positive start. The move of Daff to the forward line paid immediate dividends with Sheffield battling to find a suitable match up to contest his fast leading and strong marking. Two early goals to Daff and one to spearhead Matt Wielgosz rewarding some outstanding centre clearance work from ruckman Ben Sweetman and Jake “Burra” Norris who alleviated any concerns over his fitness with a superb opening spell in the middle. Sheffield though, had come into the game with a definitive game plan to take risks and hit the Manchester midfield brigade with everything they had early on. This approach was rewarded as Sheffield countered with goals midway through the opening stanza. As the quarter progressed Manchester’s defence led by the rebounding Budd Norris was placed under constant pressure, with the Mozzies midfield  absorbing some big hits from Nevin and Ireland and being harassed by their Sheffield opponents at every contest. The game was taking an unexpected turn, forcing the Manchester coaching staff to make some adjustments. Wayne Sumner came on in an unfamiliar role in the backline and impressed with his tenacity and physical approach to win several contests at a time when Sheffield were piling on the pressure. Marc Wyss came off the bench to steady the midfield and with several telling possessions helped give further opportunities to Wielgosz and Daff. It was an intriguing and high tempo opening term that saw the Mozzies enter the first break 8 points down with 7 scoring shots to Sheffield’s 10.

The second term saw some more adjustments made with captain Matt Kilheeney starting in the ruck, Lachie Daff returning to a defensive post and Dean Thomas coming off the bench to partner “Burra” Norris in the middle. The moves had immediate effect with Thomas hitting a leading Wielgosz on the chest after receiving a free kick for a head high tackle at the centre ball up. Wielgosz duly converted and the Mozzies were looking on the up. Sheffield, to their credit, maintained their attack on the ball and continued to run hard to make space. Quite simply they would not go away. Any thoughts Manchester had of blowing the game wide open quickly disintegrated  with goals on the counter attack from Sheffield. The gruelling battle in the midfield continued with neither side gaining a clear advantage in that area. As the quarter progressed the rotations that the Mozzies implicated around the ground began to take their toll, however inaccurate kicking – largely as a result of Sheffield defensive pressure saw the game still locked in an arm wrestle at the half time siren. Manchester went into the long break with only a 6 point lead, despite having had 14 scoring shots to 5 for the term and 21 to 15 for the half.

Half time saw a chance for the Mozzies to re-group and reassess. The coaching staff, as they have done all year, delivered a clear and controlled message to persevere with the same principles that the side had utilised throughout the season thus far.

The second half saw a dramatic change in fortunes for both sides. Not afraid to make positional changes, the Mozzies moved skipper Matt Kilheeney to centre half back and adopted a three way midfield rotation of “Burra” Norris, Wyss and Thomas. Wayne Sumner moved back forward in a rotation with “Spike” Kilheeney and Richard Clarke with Matt Wielgosz as the focal point.

Manchester started the all important third term with a far greater sense of urgency as Ben Sweetman and Peter Cunningham gave their midfielders first use of the ball. Wyss in particular prospered from their ruck dominance giving him time to deliver to the forwards with precision. As the term progressed Matt Kilheeney at centre half back had a steadying influence with “Bundy” Lindop running through the lines to give an attacking option. Peter Cunningham made some big plays during the term, “Rhino” Gillan took a superb pack mark under pressure, whilst  full forward Matt Wielgosz was magnificent on the lead and continued to reward the efforts of his team mates by kicking accurately.

Around the stoppages the Mozzies midfield gained the ascendancy over their opponents with “ Burra” Norris, Thomas and Wyss racking up possessions. Both Wyss and Norris kicked goals for the term, whilst Thomas missed two and hit the post on a third occasion. When a heavy tackle was laid by Thomas on the wing, and his free kick subsequently marked and converted by Wielgosz the game began to break open. Sheffield had some terrible luck when their skipper Garth Nevin went down with a knee injury at a time they could least afford it. To Nevin’s credit he returned in the last quarter but was clearly restricted as a result of the injury he suffered.

Manchester’s movement of the ball during the third term became far slicker, with greater drive from the half backs and midfielders giving the forwards cleaner opportunities to grasp. In a 15 minute burst Manchester piled on 7 goals whilst keeping Sheffield goalless for the term giving them a commanding 50 point three quarter time lead.

With a full quarter remaining, the game was far from over as far as the Mozzies were concerned. Their concerted attack on the ball remained as intense as it did in the third term. The goal kicking form of Matt Wielgosz continued whilst “Spike” Kilheeney was finally rewarded for a hard working effort all day by bagging two majors, one a clever snap from his wrong side. “Bundy” Lindop had a terrific final term providing options for the midfielders to hand pass out of congestion to as he ran through the lines, ditto Budd Norris and Lachie Daff who when swung back forward late in the day kicked his fourth within seconds of being moved. The final quarter yielded 6 goals to 1, a fitting reward for a terrific second half by Manchester, booking them a place in their second consecutive AFLCNE Grand Final.

It was a day where such an even contribution made it difficult for the Mozzies to nominate their best. In the early stages when they were being seriously confronted by the Thunder’s hard nosed approach Budd Norris, Jake “Burra” Norris and Daff stood tall. As the game entered the critical third term where the match would be won or lost they were joined by some sterling efforts from Matt Wielgosz, Wyss, Lindop, Peter Cunningham, the Kilheeney brothers, Thomas, Clarke, Gilham, English, and Singh. In the end the scores and awards were as follows:

                             1st                 2nd              3rd              4th

Manchester         4.3                8.13           15.18         21.26   (152)

Sheffield              5.5                8.7               8.10           9.12      (66)

Goals: Wielgosz 10, Daff 4, J.Norris 3, Mike Kilheeney 2, Sumner 1, Wyss 1.

Best: Wyss, Wielgosz, J.Norris, Daff, B.Norris, Sweetman, Matt Kilheeney.

The Deli sponsored Play of the Day: Al “The Rhino” Gillan for his mark in the 3rd term.

O’Neill’s sponsored Man of the Match: Marc “Still needs a decent nickname” Wyss

Earlier in the day the Leeds Minotaurs booked their place in their first ever AFLCNE Grand Final with a tense victory over the Birmingham Bears. The Bears had their chances but the Minotaurs steadied when they needed to and now provide a major obstacle in Manchester’s quest for back to back Flags. Leeds, courtesy of their undefeated season thus far deserve to start as favourites but most observers believe that there has been a momentum shift in recent weeks that leans towards the Mozzies being a formidable opponent.

Manchester’s greatest strength appears to be their flexibility. Daff, Matt Kilheeney, English and Wyss are just as effective forward, back or in the midfield. Lindop and Budd Norris have shown they can hold down prominent midfield roles as well as defensive roles. Sweetman has been superb in the ruck in the second half of the year and has the capability to push forward to offer another marking option as well as cut off opposing attacking forays when he drifts back. “Spike” Kilheeney, perhaps the team’s greatest benchmark, works as hard as anyone pushing up the ground and then getting back to offer attacking options. “Burra” Norris, unquestionably the toughest and most courageous midfielder in the league was largely seen as an in and under player at the start of the year but has added goal kicking to his repertoire as the season has progressed. He provides a matchup nightmare for the Minotaurs.

Matt Wielgosz up forward is in the form of his life, making the most of his opportunities with accurate kicking, but it is his defensive pressure when the ball is turned over that opponents fail to respect. Sam Boyd shapes as a Manchester wildcard who gives the side so much run and marking power.

Leeds too have numerous strengths. A midfield that punishes mistakes and thrives on open space, a tough and unrelenting defensive group and key forwards that have kicked more goals than anyone in 2013. The Minotaurs love fast, flowing footy and using players on the overlap to swamp opposing defenders. Manchester’s defensive pressure will be the key if they are to halt the Minotaurs’ winning streak.

Thursday night’s final session will see the likes of Sam Boyd, Andy Hosking, Billy Wilson and Jon Hanson press their claims for a grand final berth. With the side coming out of the semi-final unscathed the coaching staff will have some difficult decisions to make come selection on Thursday evening.

Round 10, Lightning Round in Leeds

wielgosz grab

Round 10 brought with it the final home and away fixture for season 2013. Manchester having already secured 2nd spot on the league ladder came into the round with a strong squad of 18 players for the two fixtures against old rivals Nottingham and the improved Wolverhampton.

Coming into the squad for the first time since the round 6 victory over Birmingham was key defender Lachie Daff. Also welcomed back was premiership player James Connor for his first match since the round 5 victory over Huddersfield, ruckman Peter Cunningham, forward Jordie Gurry, and making his debut after successfully overcoming an injured ankle, Billy Wilson. Making way were injured midfield duo Jake “Burra” Norris and Dean Thomas, and defender Nik Wheeler.

Match 1.

First up were Nottingham who were looking to finish off what must be considered a disappointing season, in a positive manner. The Mozzies lost key midfielder Marc Wyss in the warm-up so after some late alterations to the line-up the action got underway.

From the opening bounce the intensity of Manchester’s attack on the ball overwhelmed the undermanned Scorpions. Ruckman Ben Sweetman’s superb form of late continued with early dominance in the ruck contests giving skipper Matt Kilheeney first use of the ball. Kilheeney’s efforts to rack up contested possessions were all the more meritorious when you consider that he was without midfield cohorts “Burra” Norris, Wyss and Thomas for the day. Key forward Matt Wielgosz started proceedings with an early goal to carry on where he left off against Wolverhampton two weeks previous and from that moment on it was all Manchester. The first half saw Lachie Daff make a seamless return to the line-up with a polished display in the back half. He was well supported by Budd Norris and “Bundy” Lindop who both provided enormous run off half back.

Up forward “Spike” Kilheeney and Wayne Sumner were working well at the feet of Wielgosz who had his most dominant period for the season to date with four first half goals all via strong leads and one grab marking. At the main break Manchester took with it a lead of 34 points.

The second half saw the Mozzies turn up the heat in what were already stifling conditions. Wielgosz continued his first half dominance with an even greater impact in the second half. The Scorpions had no answer to his contested marking, or the ball getting of Matt Kilheeney, Budd Norris, “Bundy” Lindop, “Spike” Kilheeney and most pleasingly of all, newcomer Billy Wilson who displayed a genuine hardness at the ball and ability to win the contest. Several passages of play saw the Mozzies move the ball with more fluency than they had shown all season, linking up numerous hand passes at a time, clearing congestion to honour the leads of Wielgosz who took himself off midway through the second period with 9 goals to his name. In what was an outstanding half in the shortened lightning round format the Mozzies piled on 13 goals to 1 to defeat their grand final opponents of 2012 by 109 points.

                             1st              2nd   

Manchester         8.4             21.8   (134)

Nottingham         3.0               4.1     (25) 

Goals: Wielgosz 9, Mike Kilheeny 3, Matt Kilheeney 3, B.Norris 2, Sumner 2, Daff 1, Lindop 1.

Best: Wielgosz, Sweetman, Matt Kilheeney, B.Norris, Mike Kilheeney, Lindop. 

Match 2

Second up for  the day on the main and vastly superior Leeds number 1 pitch were Wolverhampton, a side who at one point in the season had seriously challenged for a finals berth and who earlier in the day had challenged undefeated Leeds, going down by only 15 points. With the heat and preservation of players for the coming finals in mind, adjustments were made to the Mozzies starting line-up. Lachie Daff started forward to relieve Matt Wielgosz and got off to a flyer with two goals courtesy of strong leads. Daff shapes as a key component to the hopes of finals success for Manchester. His ability to nullify opponents in the back half whilst also providing rebound run added to his goal kicking reliability when moved forward is an asset few other sides in the finals can boast. Early in the first half though, inspirational captain Matt Kilheeney limped off. This moment saw debutant Billy Wilson enter the fray in the midfield. Working at the feet of rotating ruckmen Ben Sweetman and Peter Cunningham with stand in midfielders Budd Norris and “Bundy” Lindop in tandem, Wilson improved upon his solid showing against Nottingham earlier in the day with some fierce tackling and hard ball gets. The back half, lead by Justin English and James Connor, were rebounding the ball with precision whilst  Aman Singh played his typically robust role to give the Mozzies forwards numerous attacking opportunities. In a half where Wolverhampton showed no lack of willing to commit themselves to the physical contest, Manchester absorbed everything that the Wolverines could throw their way to go into half time with a 39 point lead.

The second half, played in the same stifling conditions as the first, saw Manchester continue where they left off. Rebounding defender Budd Norris gave the side enormous drive out of the centre as a midfielder. Quite amazingly Norris’s run and carry improved and increased as the game progressed in energy sapping conditions. Billy Wilson complemented Norris’s run beautifully with aggressive ball winning in contests to feed the likes of “Bundy” Lindop who continued his excellent performances for the day. Up forward Matt Wielgosz returned to the fray with immediate impact, enjoying the wider expanses of the number 1 pitch. He was well supported by rotating forwards “Spike” Kilheeney, Clarke, Sumner, Gurry and one Justin English. English continues to improve week on week in the run in to the finals, and his second half exploits as a forward served as an eye opening reminder of his capabilities. English lead hard and up the middle to take marks, leaving his opponent in his wake. One attempted mark over opposition that surely would have been the mark of the year had it been fully grasped, was followed moments later with a one grab “screamer” over the same frustrated opponent, that was duly awarded. English combined his creativity with a real defender’s hard edge by laying tackles on Wolves defenders who were attempting to clear their defensive lines. Working in tandem with Wielgosz both players booted goals for the quarter to finish with 4 each.  Perhaps the biggest headache for the coaching staff in the lead up to the finals is whether to play English forward or back! 

                                      1st                    2nd

Manchester                   7.4                  14.10      (94)         

Wolverhampton            1.1                    3.2        (20)

Goals: Wielgosz 4, English 4, Daff 2, Mike Kilheeney 1, Gurry 1, B.Norris 1, Sweetman 1. 

Best: B.Norris, English, Daff, Wilson, Lindop, Wielgosz.

It was an amazingly even performance by Manchester for the day. Consider the statistics. Averaging just under 9 goals per quarter with 10 different goal scorers the Mozzies had 53 shots at goal with an accuracy percentage of 66%, probably their best for the year. The team played in the warmest and most energy sapping conditions to date without three of their four first choice midfielders for the day and then losing the last remaining member of that quartet early against Wolves, along with missing explosive utility Sam Boyd and defenders Nik Wheeler and Jon Hanson. 

Several players put their hands up for yet to be decided spots in the finals line-up. Andy Hosking, Wayne Sumner, Jordy Gurry and Billy Wilson really giving the coaching committee something to ponder. Lachie Daff and James Connor slotted back in seamlessly after lengthy layoffs, as did Peter Cunningham from two weeks off, particularly in the second game against Wolves.

Finishing second the Mozzies face Sheffield in this week’s elimination semi final at Leeds, the winner earning the right to feature in the Grand Final one week later in Manchester against either Leeds or Birmingham. Sheffield come off a 4 point victory over the fast finishing Huddersfield and the AFLCNE’s first ever draw against fellow finalists Birmingham. Sheffield challenged the Mozzies earlier in the year in the previous league lightning round. On that day Manchester prevailed by 25 points after being down at half time before the two sides met again in round 8 with Manchester defeating an undermanned Thunder by 135 points. The Mozzies will face a vastly different line-up come the 21st of July than who they faced that day and go into the encounter wary of an opponent  who pose a very real obstacle to their dream of a second successive Grand Final appearance. 

Training this week will see the likes of Matt Kilheeney, “Burra” Norris, Wyss, Thomas and Boyd attempt to prove their fitness to be considered for selection in a do or die encounter.

We can’t wait for Saturday!

 

Round 9 vs. Wolverhampton in Wolverhampton

Justin grab

Round 9 saw the Manchester Mosquitoes on the road to take on the Wolverhampton Wolverines. The result would directly influence the make-up of the final four. A win for Manchester would secure second place on the league ladder whilst Wolverhampton had to win in order to keep their diminishing finals hopes alive.

A mid week injury to gun on baller Jake “Burra” Norris set the Mozzies back. His withdrawal, along with that of ruckman Peter Cunningham and the continued absences of injured utility Sam Boyd and key position player Lachie Daff made for opportunities for several Mozzies on the fringe of selection to get some serious game time. Returning to the side were key midfielder Marc Wyss and premiership defender Nik Wheeler. Big defender Jon Hanson also gained selection in the squad having trained well recently. 

Starting in humid conditions and kicking with the aid of the breeze, the Mozzies got off to a flyer with two early goals to spearhead Matt Wielgosz. In a sign of positive things to come, Wielgosz took one-grab marks on strong leads and kicked with unerring accuracy. In the middle, Ben Sweetman continued his excellent ruckwork of recent weeks, winning some decisive ruck taps against a talented opponent, which allowed Marc Wyss and Captain Matt Kilheeney to dominate the centre clearances. Wyss broke away from his opponent to kick two goals in the first term as well as using his clean disposal skills to set up Wielgosz for a third. Had it not been for some wayward shots at goal near the conclusion of the first term the Mozzies would have come in with a much bigger lead than they had. At the quarter time break it was Manchester by 29 points.

Into the second term and Manchester were kicking into a strengthening breeze, strangely though the humidity did not decrease, meaning that the rotations that Manchester so often rely upon would become all the more important. The young Wolves outfit were not about to give up on their finals aspirations and played a particularly physical game early in the second period. After suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury in the first term, veteran midfielder Dean Thomas returned to action to wield influence over the midfield contests. Thomas set up Wielgosz with two pinpoint passes that the key forward converted, continuing his accurate kicking for the day. Andy Hosking came on in the ruck to relieve a dominant Ben Sweetman and handled himself well in the contests, whilst also contributing with an on the run goal mid way through the term. Budd Norris, Justin English and “Bundy” Lindop were now giving the Mozzies real drive off half back with Norris kicking one of his trademark running goals courtesy of a sweeping hand pass out of congestion from Thomas. Up forward Wielgosz continued to present strong leads that Matt Kilheeney, Wyss and Thomas all honoured. After battling hard to win a contest against two opponents “Spike” Kilheeney swung around onto his trusty left foot to kick one of his trademark goals from a tight angle, and Manchester were away. In a quarter that rivalled their best for the season, Manchester kicked 9.2 on the back of a midfield trio that had gained total control, a back line group that continue to show an excellent understanding of one another and forwards that were presenting themselves with strong leads and marking. As the half time siren sounded the Mozzies headed to the rooms with a 64 point lead.

Manchester resumed kicking with the breeze in the third term and continued where they left off in the previous quarter. Utility Matt Kilheeney continued his prominent return from injury with a dominant display in the middle of the ground. Ben Sweetman, whose influence in the ruck contests was giving the Manchester on ball brigade first use of the ball, was now adding possessions around the ground to his repertoire. As the finals approach, his importance to the Manchester side cannot be overstated. The possession dominance by the Mozzies however, was not being fully transferred onto the scoreboard, as inaccurate kicking frustrated their attempts to put the game well out of the Wolves grasp. Manchester kicked 2.6 for the quarter with several shots also going out of bounds. Only Matt Wielgosz kicked accurately for the quarter adding to his already impressive return for the day. Wolves, playing with a surprising intensity given the score, kicked three late goals into the breeze to remind the Mozzies that one half of football does not make an entire match. At the three quarter time huddle, Manchester went in with a 63 point lead, having lost the quarter by a point.

The final quarter brought with it a renewed vigour from the Mozzies with some excellent tackling and contested possessions won. Perhaps most pleasing for the side were contests won in the back half by inexperienced trio Jon Hanson, “Rhino” Gillan and Aman Singh. All three showed some real tenacity and hardness at the ball as well as displaying improvement in their skills by breaking tackles and delivering to their forward counterparts on the run. Inaccurate kicking again cursed the Mozzies, before Wielgosz converted his tenth for the day. Back in the middle Wyss, Thomas and Matt Kilheeney were on top with both Thomas and Kilheeney contributing last quarter goals, whilst defender Justin English continued his outstanding form of late floating loose across half back to cut of Wolverhampton’s attacking forays. A feature of English’s game has been his ability to nullify opponents, but in this match he added some strong one-grab marking to his list of attributes. English shapes as another very important wildcard for the Mozzies as the finals dawn. Manchester finished the quarter with 3.6 in energy sapping conditions to run out comfortable 71 point winners, securing second place on the ladder in the process.

Manchester enter the Brit Cup weekend bye in a solid position with the week off giving several sore Mozzies the chance to recuperate before the final round of fixtures against Wolverhampton and bitter rivals Nottingham. Premiership defender Lachie Daff looks set to return for the final home and away round along with Peter Cunningham and possibly injured duo Sam Boyd and “Burra” Norris. With the promising Billy Wilson training well and looking set to play in the Brit Cup fixtures for the first time after an injury lay off that has lasted for the entire season to date, Manchester’s coaching staff will have no shortage of options to choose from.

                                      1st             2nd           3rd          4th

Manchester                   5.8           14.10     16.16    19.22   (136)

Wolverhampton             1.3             4.6         7.7        9.11   (65)

Goals Manchester: Wielgosz 10, Matt Kilheeney 2, Hosking 2, Wyss 2, Thomas 1, B. Norris 1, Mike Kilheeney 1.

Best Manchester: Wielgosz, Matt Kilheeney, Wyss, Thomas, Sweetman, English.

O’Neill’s Man of the Match: Matt Wielgosz

The Deli Play of the day: Justin English

 

Round 8 vs. Sheffield in Huddersfield

flying smother

Round 8 brought with it a season defining game for second placed Manchester against in form opponents, the third placed Sheffield Thunder who after thrashing the dangerous Huddersfield Rams the previous week, were just two points shy of the Mozzies…

Manchester, coming off a second half capitulation the previous week against Leeds, made three forced changes to their line-up with key forward Matt Wielgosz, ruckman Peter Cunningham and key position player Andy Hosking included for midfielder Marc Wyss, defender Nik Wheeler and forwards Wayne Sumner and Jordan Gurry.

Beginning in blustery and overcast conditions, midfielder “Burra” Norris and ruckman Ben Sweetman continued their solid form from the previous week. Sweetman’s decisive ruck tap at the first bounce was grasped by a roving “Burra” Norris, who duly put it through for a goal in the opening seconds of the contest. Utilising the advantage of kicking downwind in the first term, Manchester continued a sustained assault on the Sheffield defence with “Burra” Norris roaming across the ground seemingly unchecked, to gather possessions at will. Norris had three goals to his name by midway through the first term and was superbly fed by ruckman Ben Sweetman at the stoppages. Up forward Ric Clarke was proving elusive, eager to claim some rewards in the starting line-up. Captain Matt Kilheeney, in just his second game back from injury, was starting to recapture the form he is best known for. With forward Matt Wielgosz providing a leading target that had been sorely missing in the second half against Leeds, causing the Sheffield defence headaches, Manchester was on a roll. Wielgosz put through Manchester’s fourth following “Burra” Norris’s opening trifecta, before Thomas came on to relieve “Burra” Norris and immediately slotted through a long range set shot with the aid of the breeze to add the Mozzies fifth for the term. Sheffield responded with three quick goals into the wind before “Burra” Norris returned to the field to finish the quarter with another goal, giving him four at the first break and the Mozzies a 24 point lead.

Kicking into the teeth of a strong breeze in the second quarter, “Burra” Norris commenced the term the same way he completed the first, with another goal. Matt Wielgosz soon followed with his second. Ric Clarke, enjoying his best game to date for the Mozzies in 2013, was continuing to cause problems for the Sheffield defence. Clarke combined strong leads and marks with some superb second efforts. One such effort involving Clarke effecting a smother on an attempted clearance by a Sheffield defender in the goal square, before gathering the loose ball he had just created and kicking the goal. At the other end of the ground “Bundy” Lindop, Budd Norris and Justin English were combining superbly to quell any attacking efforts that Sheffield instigated. Both Lindop and Budd Norris provided rebound off half back, with Lindop setting up two goals and Budd Norris slotting one through on the run, much to the bemusement of brother “Burra” who had worked hard to lead to space, pleading for the ball, as Budd ran past to kick truly. Justin English continued to press his claims for a starting berth as the finals approach, with a miserly and disciplined first half performance at full back, shutting down his dangerous opponent and providing rebound from the last line of defence. Andy Hosking and Aman Singh were used to relieve English and Lindop respectively contributing some strong contests to the back half’s efforts. With Captain Matt Kilheeney joining “Burra” Norris in claiming control of the midfield and forward “Spike” Kilheeney now joining Clarke and Wielgosz in providing goal scoring options going forward, Manchester went into the long break with a sizeable lead of 63 points.

Kicking with the wind again in the third term, Manchester was determined to build on their lead. “Burra” Norris and Matt Kilheeney were working superbly at the feet of Ben Sweetman and Peter Cunningham giving Manchester’s forwards ample opportunities to convert. “Spike” Kilheeney, so often the barometer of this team, was now proving to be a real menace across half forward. Both he and Clarke were effectively midfielders on the small Huddersfield ground, but their ability to continuously push forward to be at the feet of Matt Wielgosz resulted in more goals for the Mozzies. “Rhino” Gillan was his usual aggressive self in the packs, working hard to keep the ball in the Mozzie’s attacking half. Half backs Budd Norris and “Bundy” Lindop both drifted forward to convert during the quarter, even full back Justin English had an opportunity to score as Manchester’s run overwhelmed the Sheffield defence. Midway through the term utility Matt Kilheeney kicked a long range goal and when Dean Thomas was moved forward and subsequently converted a fine snapped goal followed by an assist that allowed “Burra” Norris to put through his seventh, the game was well and truly out of Sheffield’s reach. Turning for home, the Mozzies had increased their lead to 113 points.

At the three quarter time huddle, the coaching staff urged the playing group to maintain the effort that had been sustained for the first three quarters of the match. Kicking into the strengthening breeze, Manchester again got off to a flying start with goals to “Burra” Norris, “Spike” Kilheeney, Wielgosz and Clarke. The defensive trio of Budd Norris, Lindop and English continued to be dominant over their opponents whilst Matt Kilheeney and “Burra” Norris had total control over the midfield contests. Thomas, continuing up forward in a change from his usual midfield role, was providing a new element to the Mozzies forward half and could have finished with 6 but for inaccurate kicking. Manchester closed the game out with a solid final term to run out decisive winners by 135 points.

It was a superb way for the side to bounce back from the disappointment of the second half fade out the previous week. The fact it was against a genuine finals contender, making the manner of the way the result was achieved, rather than the result itself, all the more pleasing.

In a day when the coaching staff was hard pressed to name their best players due to the even efforts of all concerned, Jake “Burra” Norris stood above the pack with another outstanding display of ball winning and goal kicking. Captain Matt Kilheeney returned to his best, with Ric Clarke having perhaps his best ever game for the Mozzies, and “Spike” Kilheeney having a big day after a quiet week previously, there was plenty of additional upside to the performance.

Wolverhampton awaits the Mozzies in Round 9, desperate to keep their finals hopes alive, whilst Manchester can all but secure second spot on the ladder with a win. With only 3 matches remaining before the finals and Marc Wyss, Sam Boyd, Lachie Daff, Nik Wheeler, Jordan Gurry and Wayne Sumner who were missing from the victory over Sheffield all expected to be fit and available, competition for places in the line-up is now starting to heat up.

                                 1st             2nd          3rd          4th

Manchester        6.7           14.9        22.17     26.23   (179)    

Sheffield             3.1             4.6          5.6         6.8     (44)

Goals: J.Norris 8, Clarke 4, Matt Kilheeney 3, Mike Kilheeney 3, Wielgosz 3, Thomas 2, B.Norris 2, Lindop 1.

Best: J.Norris, Matt Kilheeney, Clarke, Mike Kilheeney, B.Norris, Sweetman,Lindop, English.

The Deli Play of the Day: R. Clarke

O’Neill’s Man of the Match: J. Norris

 

Round 7 vs. Leeds in Newcastle

vs Leeds

Round 7 saw the long awaited matchup between defending premiers Manchester against the as yet undefeated Leeds Minotaurs. 

Leeds came into the game in record breaking form with huge wins in their two most recent encounters whilst the Tradewind-sponsored Manchester came in on the back of four successive victories having not lost a match since Round 1.

The Mozzies were dealt a blow mid week with the loss of key position players Matt Wielgosz, Lachlan Daff and Peter Cunningham from the victory over Birmingham in Round 6, but still they felt confident of their ability to match it with Leeds.

Their absence however was compounded by the last minute withdrawal of star utility Sam Boyd after his injury flared during the pre-match warm-up. 

Captain Matt Kilheeney made a welcome return from injury ahead of schedule. He was joined in the line-up by forward Jordan Gurry and newcomer rugby-convert Charlie in place of Boyd.

The first term… It would not be an exaggeration to state that the first quarter was the most eye catching term of the season thus far. It was end to end stuff with Leeds opening the scoring early before Manchester countered with some superb efforts to set up goal scoring opportunities. Ben Sweetman opened the account for the Mozzies with a strong pack mark and goal. Marc Wyss was electrifying across half forward with two early goals and an opportunity for a third. His goals included a one handed scoop of the ball with a weave through two Leeds opponents before kicking truly on the run. “Burra” Norris, who contributed a wonderful snapped goal midway through the term, was inspirational in the midfield putting his body on the line on several occasions, enabling him to win numerous contested possessions. Ben Sweetman was swung into the ruck midway through the opening term after Matt Kilheeney had started, and had an immediate impact in that role. His work around the ground, ruck taps and tackling, combined with the ground work of “Burra” Norris, Wyss and Thomas saw the Manchester midfield go toe to toe with the much vaunted Leeds engine room. Lindop and Budd Norris in defence were matching it with their opponents in what was a frenetic opening term. It was goal for goal throughout the quarter with Manchester trailing by 7 points at the first interval.

If the first term was the most eye catching of the season thus far, then the second was perhaps the most bruising, with players from both sides taking no prisoners. The tackling pressure from Leeds was immense, matched by the likes of the Norris brothers, Sweetman, Thomas and Wyss. Again Leeds took the early ascendancy before Manchester struck back. Early in the quarter however, the Mozzies were dealt a hammer blow with the loss of Marc Wyss who had been superb up until that stage… still they fought on. “Burra” Norris was in the form of his life regularly throwing himself into brutal physical contests before emerging with the ball on countless occasions. Sweetman continued his excellent game in the ruck, providing a real physical presence around the ground. Thomas began to have a telling impact through the middle with Lindop racking up possessions as a loose man across half back. Budd Norris was unrelenting with his pressure and disposal from deep in the back line. Wheeler, English and Clarke all came on through the quarter and made immediate contributions. With Captain Matt Kilheeney starting to work his way into the match with some strong contests, the game was on.

Leeds though were as unrelenting, and finding themselves tested for the first time this season, responded. At half time Manchester were trailing by 22 points.

The mood in the rooms at the long break was a positive one. Leeds had thrown everything at Manchester and still hadn’t shaken the Mozzies off. Coach Matt Wielgosz reiterated the need to maintain the intensity. With fewer than four goals in it, the game was very much alive.

Manchester began the third term with the same rigorous attack on the ball as they had in the first half. That man again – “Burra” Norris, Sweetman and Thomas launched a superb series of tackles in quick succession on their Leeds counterparts deep in the Mozzies forward line early on in the term, resulting in Sweetman being awarded the free kick. His shot slid to the right for a minor score but all the indications were that Manchester were not going to go away. Leeds however, responded yet again, this time with ruthless efficiency, counter attacking with two quick goals. Thomas had a chance to get one back after gathering a loose ball on the run but that too went astray for a minor score. When Leeds countered again on the rebound, the Mozzies were in trouble, their situation worsening mid way through the term when Thomas went down with an ankle injury after being claimed in a heavy tackle. When defender Aman Singh joined the casualty list Manchester were struggling to hold Leeds at bay. “Burra” Norris, now joined by “Spike” Kilheeney in the midfield, continued his relentless efforts. Lindop and Budd Norris too, continued their strong performances across half back, the latter clearly under duress but nonetheless fearless in his attack on the ball. By now though, Leeds had gained the momentum which saw them run away with the quarter.

At the third term huddle the Mozzies were asked by their coaches to learn from their opponents. The message was a simple one- be accountable for your opponent and win your individual battle.

With the pointy end of the season in mind, Captain Matt Kilheeney joined Wyss, Thomas and Singh on the bench during the final term. First year player Charlie came on for his first run and showed with an early mark and possession and one very strong tackle, that he has an element to his game that will be valuable to the side in coming weeks. Although comfortably outscored in the final term the efforts of the Norris brothers in particular and “Bundy” Lindop could not be understated. A fine snapped goal to defender Justin English when he was moved forward, gave an indication of his versatility too, which will be a vital attribute in weeks to come.

Undoubtedly the performance of the day as far as Manchester were concerned came from Jake “Burra” Norris. “Burra” easily topped the key statistical areas of contested possessions and tackles for Manchester. His performance even more meritorious, given that he lost midfield counterpart Sam Boyd pre – game and then Wyss and Thomas during the day.

With the loss to Leeds, the Round 8 encounter against third placed Sheffield who are just two points adrift of the Mozzies takes on season defining status.

Goals: Wyss 2, Sweetman 1. J. Norris 1, English 1, (1 unconfirmed for now!)

Best: J. Norris, B. Norris, Lindop, Sweetman, Wyss, Thomas.

The Deli Play of the day: Nik Wheeler and Marc Wyss jointly, for a great tackle and taking a tough faint-worthy knock respectively!

O’Neill’s man of the Match: J. Norris

No position changes on the league ladder from this weekend; just points & percentages!

 

Round 6 vs. Birmingham Bears in Manchester

On the back of three successive victories Manchester came into round 6 in second place, their clash with fourth placed Birmingham an opportunity to put space between themselves and the chasing pack.

On the warmest day of the season so far and with by far the biggest crowd the club had ever played in front of, Manchester came into the contest brimming with confidence and determination. The boys welcomed back premiership players Peter Cunningham and Wayne Sumner and first year player Justin English as replacements for Lindop, Connor and the injured Hosking. “Spike” Kilheeney skippered the side in the absence of injured captain Matt Kilheeney.

The first quarter began in earnest with both sides having opportunities to score goals early on. After several missed chances attacking defender Budd Norris continued his goal scoring form by drifting forward to post Manchester’s first major for the day. As the quarter developed, rookie utility Sam Boyd began to assert his dominance around the ground with several contested marks and numerous hard won possessions, Marc Wyss began to take control of the midfield, with Matt Wielgosz providing the target up forward. The defence, including Aman Singh who bounced straight back from a bone crunching hit, were making the Bears earn every touch. Manchester took a 21 point lead into the quarter time huddle.

The second term, with Manchester kicking to the clubhouse end, saw the Mozzies start to apply some genuine scoreboard pressure. Boyd continued his dominance around the ground in his best game to date for the club, whilst Wyss lead the midfield, racking up hard ball gets. “Burra” Norris worked hard around the packs winning several telling clearances, including a clever tap down from a contest that resulted in Thomas snapping truly from 35 metres out. Birmingham though, refused to go away and with a burst of late snaps brought the margin back at half time to 30 points.

The third term saw Manchester finally break the shackles and with it Birmingham’s challenge. The defensive quartet of Daff, Wheeler, Budd Norris and English took control of their opponents, providing numerous rebound sorties for Wielgosz who registered five majors by three quarter time. He was ably supported by “Rhino” Gillan showing flair as a small forward, Sumner, Clarke and “Spike” Kilheeney. Wyss and “Burra” Norris continued their control over the midfield contributing with goals as well, and as the coaching staff began to take a conservative approach with Boyd, Peter Cunningham gained the ascendancy in the ruck contests. The Mozzies turned for home with a well earned 48 point lead.

If Manchester thought Birmingham were going to slip away quietly they were given a rude awakening as the Bears scored three quick goals to open the final stanza. With both Wielgosz and Boyd sitting out the final term it was important for the rest of the playing group to up the ante when challenged, and that they did. English grasped his chance in the side with some tough defensive work, “Burra” Norris gathered yet another contested clearance at half forward that released Thomas to snap a sensational goal on the run from the tightest of angles, before first year player “Rhino” Gilham registered his well deserved first goal for the Mozzies with a clever snap after some bullocking work to set it up. Ben Sweetman capitalised on some good clearance work from Cunningham and Thomas to dribble through a clever goal, followed by a superb long range set shot from captain “Spike” Kilheeney that should give him great confidence in front of goal. Cunningham rounded out the day with a final major to see Manchester run out winners over Birmingham by 54 points.

Goals: Wielgosz 5, Thomas 2, Wyss 2, J. Norris 2, B.Norris 1, Daff 1, Spike Kilheeney 1, Gillan 1, Cunningham 1, Sweetman 1

Best: Wyss, Boyd, Wielgosz, J. Norris, B. Norris

The Deli sponsored Play of the Day award: “Rhino” Gillan

O’Neill’s sponsored Man of the Match award: Sam Boyd

Encouraging signs for the coaching group were the improved clearance rate from the midfielders on the back of some excellent ruck work from Boyd and Cunningham, the even spread of goal kickers and the performances of the inclusions for the day. With premiership players “Bundy” Lindop and James Connor set to return and a full list to choose from barring injured duo Matt Kilheeney and Andy Hosking, some interesting selection dilemmas await ahead of the keenly anticipated clash with undefeated Leeds.

Round 5 vs. Huddersfield Rams in Sheffield

So… after 4 league rounds it was finally time for the Mozzies’ first full length league match this year and it felt a long way in the making! Travelling to Sheffield for the double header which also featured Sheffield Thunder vs. Birmingham Bears, the Mozzies were keen to have a stab at taking four points from one match against an opposition everyone knew would be much tougher than reflected on paper so far this year. This was especially evident after the Mozzies just clinched a ONE-pointer the week before in the lightning round!

The match started with Manchester kicking downhill and downwind to send a raft of shots through the posts from some great midfield work which regularly found the ball landing in the forward line. A solid start in this first quarter really set the tone for the rest of the game.

Conscious of the similar advantage obtained against Birmingham in Round 1 which was then turned around on us, it was important to keep the momentum through the second quarter. Potentially more a psychological advantage rather than a physical one, the turn to kicking slightly uphill had the Mozzies a little rattled as the Rams inevitably started to find similar space going forward, kicking a few through the second quarter by managing to find some of their key men in the attacking half.

The third quarter again saw the points tally swing in our favour with accurate kicking out of the back line, and with some strong marking and tackling throughout the pitch. A repeat of the dominance in the first quarter was difficult to match as the Rams got wiser to the Mozzies tactics, and put on a solid defence against free space in the half-forward region, whist kicking goals of their own.

The scene had been set for a tough and edgy final quarter, with not much in it and Huddersfield having the advantage of the pitch slope and wind. That’s exactly what it was right to the siren, with Manchester up by less than a goal with only minutes remaining. Some strong contested marks by the Rams’ forwards brought them very close to stealing the win almost on the siren. Both teams had a real battle and went hard at the ball for the whole final 20 minutes, with the match finishing a 3-point victory for the Mozzies.

Final score:

Manchester 87 – Huddersfield 84

Congrats to Dean “Dinosaur” Thomas for taking the Play of the Day, sponsored by The Deli in Didsbury, for some blind handball trickery winning him the reward.

Marc “Marathon Man” Wyss grabbed himself the hotly contested O’Neill’s Man of the Match award by some solid on-ball work throughout the match.

Cheers to Tradewind Recruitment and kit sponsors Minova for their support of the Mosquitoes in 2013.

 

Round 4, Lightning Round in Nottingham

Round 4 saw the Mozzies return to the pitch after an entire month without a competitive game, due to byes and forfeits. The Mozzies travelled to Nottingham for a lighting round, with games against Huddersfield Rams and Sheffield Thunder, looking to record their first victories of the season.

The Mozzies kicked off the day against rivals Huddersfield, and after winning the toss and choosing to kick with the strong wind , they were hoping for a positive start. But despite their positive start, the Mozzies didn’t capitalise on their dominance and failed to take their chances, with a lot of shots missing the target. Meanwhile, at the other end, Huddersfield benefited from positive forward pressure and a few lucky bounces to go into half time with a 5 goal lead.

At this stage the prospects weren’t great for the Mozzies, especially considering they were kicking into the wind in the second half. Despite a few heads being down, a pep talk from the coaches at the break saw the Mozzies come out stronger in the second half and finally the pressure started to pay. With the backs and on-ballers hitting the forward targets more often, and the chances now being converted into goals, they gradually started to claw back the deficit resulting in a very nervy few minutes. An excellent performance form a defensive point of view saw the Mozzies restrict Huddersfield to only 2 points in the second quarter, despite the ever increasing wind.

There was confusion following the siren regarding the final result, but after consultation with goal umpires, the Mozzies came out victorious by only 1 point!

Final score:

Manchester 48 defeat Huddersfield 47.

After an hour break, the Mozzies took to the field against Sheffield Thunder full of confidence from their earlier win.

It was very even early on, with both teams engaging in a thrilling midfield battle. With neither team managing to take hold of the game, half time loomed with the score pretty much dead level. From the first bounce of the second half, it was obvious that the Mozzies wanted the victory more than their Sheffield counterparts. They started to get more bodies to contests, resulting in more and more possessions to the key on-ballers. With strong hard leads from the forwards, the Mozzies started to show the form and style of play that saw them claim the flag the previous year, and the dominance was reflected in the score line, with the Mozzies running out clear winners come the final siren.

Final score:

Manchester 65 defeat Sheffield 42

Play of the day went to Nik “Wheelz “ Wheeler for his bi-annual goal.

Best on Ground for the day went to Budd Norris, for an outstanding display from the backline, resulting in 2 goals!

Special praise also goes to Ben Sweetman, Justin English and Rob Korbosky……. all making their competitive debut for the Mozzies.

Round 1 2013, Lightning Round in Wolverhampton

After a long (and cold!) pre-season campaign the mighty Mozzies opened the 2013 season in Saturday’s lightening round hosted by Wolverhampton (the only ground where there are occasionally more pigs braving the wind watching games than supporters –  only out-weighed by Wolves’ invariably warm welcome).  There were plenty of changes to the Mozzies’ playing list in the off season with a number of club legends including Edwards, Hocking, Sproule, Norris (one of them at least) and Radloff leaving the UK shores, so repeating the incredible 2012 season in which the team went start-to-finish without being defeated was always going to be a big ask. That said the Mozzies had an air of quiet confidence after some promising pre-season performances.

Before the first game, the on-field leadership team was announced by coach Wielgosz with Matt “Kila” Kilheeney deservedly being named as captain for the 2013 season, supported by vice captains Nik “Wheelz” Wheeler and Mike “Spike” Kilheeney. Congrats to each of those lads, their positions are completely deserved and reflect the changing make-up of the Mozzies team away from a heavily Australian side.  And so it was then on to the main event, the footy, against a Leeds team who it was known had recruited strongly in the off-season, in the first of two short games for the day.

With a mid-field of Peto (with a “T”), Norris, and Kila, the Mozzies had plenty of options in the middle and pumped the ball forward  on a number of occasions, though the experienced Leeds recruits managed to stifle most forays forward and indeed used their half back line as a real spring board into attack.  Despite the Mozzies having a strong wind advantage, Leeds went into the half time break with a slight lead.  In the second half the back line of Wheeler, Daff and Singh were put under heavy pressure as Leeds made the most of the strong wind and piled on a heap of goals, the Mozzies struggling to get the ball into their forward line. The relatively inexperienced Mozzies line-up will learn a lot from playing Leeds and those lads new to the sport in Boyd, Hanson, Singh and Gillan will only benefit from the experience. Training hard is one thing – and a very important thing at that – but there’s no substitute for match fitness, match experience and experience playing together as a team.  That will most certainly come for the Mozzies over the 2013 season.

Leeds: 9.10.64

Manchester: 3.8.26

After a one hour break between games, the Mozzies lined up against a Birmingham team who had also recruited well in the off season. In this game though, again starting the game with the wind advantage, the Mozzies clicked and took the ascendency with goals from a number of players. The Mozzies really looked to be flying and went into the half time break with a solid lead.  In the second half though, Birmingham and their big guns came out firing – really firing – and the Mozzies were left floundering.  The Mozzies didn’t seem to have the composure, or more tellingly the fitness, to deal with the Birmingham onslaught and let their first half advantage slip with the Bears running out by 9 point winners. Wyss, Boyd, Cunningham, Norris, Kila tried hard all day but unfortunately fitness and match smarts told at the end of the day.

Birmingham: 8.10.58

Manchester: 7.7.49

So following the round 1 lightening round, the Mozzies came away winless, but there were plenty of real positives to come out of the day. Four guys played their first game of Aussie Rules for points with each of them showing real promise. Sam Boyd took the honours for the player voted “Player of the day” (sponsored by O’Neills) for his exciting performance as a first time ruckman, with the newly appointed vice captain taking The Deli “Play of the Day” for his goal from the boundary against Leeds in the first game.  This was the first time this group of players had played together in a home and away game and they will only improve as they play together over the course of the season, the side settles and some key players come back. Add to that a little bit of extra fitness work and the rewards will come for the Mozzies. They won’t come easily though with Manchester facing the old foe Nottingham next week at home. Notts won both their lightening premiership games and are always a strong side but with round 1 under their belts and the home ground advantage, the Mozzies should give the Scorpions a real run for their money before going into the bank holiday and bye break – leave nothing in the tank this weekend Mozzies!

 

Haggis Cup 2013

Saturday 13th April saw the Mozzies compete in the 9th annual Haggis Cup in Edinburgh, hosted by the Scottish Australian Rules Football League. This was the last pre-season event for the Club before Round 1 on Sunday 21st April, and we were greeted by a sunny day in Edinburgh with light winds across the 2 pitches at Peffermill Playing Fields. British weather for once proved itself at least more predictable than the team’s performances on the day, with 2 great wins to be proud of and 2 games to move swiftly on from but not forget.

7 teams were competing on the day, with the Mozzies in the larger group of 4. First up were the recently-formed Tyne/Tees Tigers, an amalgamation of players from the ex- North East England league, along with a few numbers made up from the Dublin Demons. Our boys came out all guns blazing and really showed that despite big squad changes to both our British and Australian contingents, we can still retain that strong-starting instinct which set us up for the Premiership last season. The final score clearly reflected the greater combined experience in the Manchester squad, but all the same we played some great footy that set us up perfectly for the rest of the day.

With no disrespect to the Tigers, the relatively simpler first game possibly put our boys in the wrong mindset for our second game against the reigning Haggis Cup holders- the Edinburgh Bloods. The Mozzies came out vey sluggish in the first half of the short game, and earned themselves a stern but fair talking to from captain Matt Kilheeney at half time. As it turned out, the local boys were the team to beat again this year, claiming victory over Wimbledon in the final in what was a very high standard match of footy. Despite a slow start, the lads came back to kick more points than their opposition in the second half, but a complete turnaround of the game was a tall order by this point.

The third game saw Manchester face league rivals Huddersfield Rams after a brilliant friendly recently which Manchester edged out on their home turf. Despite us learning a hard lesson about slow starting in the last match, the Rams really got the better start in the match and seemed to have too much space moving forward through the pitch. Again, this caused an irreversible deficit at half time, and despite a much-improved second half, the Rams deservedly took victory, and you could see how much it meant to them. The Mozzies finished third in the group despite a decent 138 for/against percentage.

Having missed out on a spot in the semi-finals, the Mozzies were up against Glasgow Sharks after the lunch break. The match proved a good battle throughout, which showed some of the classy work from the first game, along with some solid consistency that was dug out the bag for our final match of the day. Great credit should be given to the boys for not letting the last 2 games get to their heads in this match, and for not tiring up with only one substitute for the last game after a long break. Manchester ran out winners by a goal or two to finish on a high note.

Special mentions to… Matt Kilheeney for making the Team of the Day- the “dream team” from all the clubs, Campbell Hamilton for making up the numbers and even facing his own side Glasgow, and Sam Boyd for making the Team of the Day despite it being his first game ever! An amazing start; the man of the match mug would have surely been his if another certain member stopped hogging it!

Thanks to our support squad for being there all day, and to the SARFL for hosting. p.s. a great night out was had by all. Someone who can remember it can write that report!

Sqaud: Clarkey, Pete-o, Marco, Killer, Spike, Aman, Billy, Budd, Boydie, Wheelz, Hamilton

 

The Nathan Blakey Movember Cup – Saturday 1st December 2012

Saturday Dec 1st saw the Mozzies’ first competitive hit out since their victorious showing in the AFL CNE Grand Final in August. The Mozzies had started light training in October with the primary objective being to introduce the many new faces recruited since last season to the game, as well as providing a chance for the established players to start getting their way back into footy after a well deserved break. With that in mind the primary aim of the Nathan Blakey Mo Cup was first and foremost to remember a former great of the club, Nathan Blakey, to showcase the Mozzies and raise money for the Movember cause, plus to give those new to the club and to the sport a chance to play competitive footy against top opposition.

Making the trek to Manchester were Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Huddersfield and Tyne Tees, the final two combining forces on the day to make the most of the round robin format. With the sun shining on a beautiful northern England autumn day – with a maximum of 3oC – the Mozzies lined up first against Leeds who, having won this tournament last year, were always going to throw down the challenge. With the Mozzies fielding a relatively inexperienced line-up, including a number of players for who this was their first competitive game of Australian Rules Football, the game was always going to be a tough one. On top of that with the Mozzies having gone undefeated in 2012 there was almost an inherent expectation of success such that when challenged, the Mozzies struggled to keep their composure. That said the new players in Robert Jones, Amandip Singh and Matt Sapulovic did themselves proud when they pulled on the Manchester jersey and the hit out will only serve them well for the 2013 season. As the game went on some of the more experienced Mozzies in Jayden Hocking, Mike & Matt Kilheeney, Andy Hosking, Al Lindop, Brendan Edwards and Jordan Gurry started to show signs of their 2012 dominance, in particular some aggressive tackling not expected at this stage of the season. A fit and enthusiastic Leeds ran out winners by 15 to 48 though coach Wielgosz wasn’t at all concerned with the scoreline, the main objective of just getting out on the ground and giving everyone a chance to get involved having been achieved.

After a “bye round” the Mozzies’ next opponents were Birmingham who after a disappointing 2012 given the expectations placed upon them, came to this tournament with a point to prove. The Mozzies however, with the earlier game under their belts seemed to have brushed off the off-season cobwebs and were a far more composed and skilled outfit in this second game. Once again the focus of the game was giving the new players plenty of game time, as well as trying established players in some different positions, Matt Killheeney for example playing out of the backline and looking comfortable in doing so. The big Frenchman Adam Guilllaume who learned to play Australian Rules Football in China had another solid game in the ruck and with a game under their belts the new guys played with that extra level of confidence, Aman in particular showing some great form in the backline. With some solid footy including a fantastic physical contest between Sean Walton of Birmingham and Matt Kilheeney which left both players dazed, the game saw a much improved performance by the Mozzies who very nearly came through with what would have been an upset win, Birmingham eventually going on to win the tournament. Birmingham though with their far more experienced line up were eventually able to get up by two goals, the final score being 27 to 39.

With the Mozzies out of playoff contention after their first two losses their final game of the day saw Manchester take on the combined Tyne Tees and Huddersfield team in the game to determine fifth and sixth places. Again throwing the news guys right into the thick of things the Mozzies went about the game with the objective of getting those new players as much game time as possible though with two games under their belts the Mozzies started to show some of the form that took them to the premiership in 2012. From the start the Mozzies moved the ball cleanly across the ground giving Lachlan Daff plenty of the ball up forward. Indeed there were a number of passages that showed just why the Mozzies were last year’s premiers and in quick time they’d opened up a comfortable lead. In the later parts of the game the Mozzies tore the game apart and not only showed what they’re capable of but did it with a smile, clearly enjoying their footy and running out winners 94 to 8 in a sign that the Mozzies will be a force in season 2013.

 

Season 2013 begins in April. For match reports of previous seasons click here.