Words Matty Gale – Photos Kai Photography
After a 3 year hiatus the Japan Goannas have made an instant impact upon their return and in doing so have taken home the inaugural AFL Asia 2019 Bench Fitness Division 3 trophy after narrowly defeating the Macau Lightning in the Bench Fitness Division 3 Grand Final by a solitary point in what was a nail biting finish at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya, Thailand.
The Bench Fitness Division 3 was created to accommodate for those teams with an aging list, those teams struggling for players or emerging teams on the cusp of Division 2. The Hong Kong Dragons, Japan Goannas, Laos Elephants, Macau Lightning, Myanmar Shwe Chinthes and Singapore Wombats headlined the inaugural the Bench Fitness Division 3, which ended up becoming the most tightly fought Division of the AFL Asia 2019 Asian Championships, with only percentage separating the top four teams.
The Laos Elephants brought across 9 local players, which was a fantastic effort and more importantly created an opportunity of a lifetime for those particular players and their development moving forward. Myanmar Shwe Chinthes were down on numbers this year, but blooded a number of locals and performed admirably nonetheless, which takes us to the top four teams.
Come the end of the 3 preliminary games, all eyes were glued on the tournament officials working out the all important percentage for the top 4 teams, given the Hong Kong Dragons narrowly got over the Japan Goannas by a point in Round 1, the Singapore Wombats knocked off the Macau Lightning by 6 points in Round 2, whilst the Macau Lightning made the most of their opportunities against the Hong Kong Dragons and the Japan Goannas were able to keep the Singapore Wombats scoreless in round 3.
As fate and percentage would have it the Japan Goannas and Macau Lightning advanced to the Grand Final, the Singapore Wombats and Hong Kong Dragons played an absolute bottler in the 3rd vs. 4th game, whilst the Myanmar Shwe Chinthes played each other again in the duel for 5th vs. 6th after facing off in Round 3.
The Bench Fitness Division 3 Grand Final was a battle for the ages and a real arm wrestle, with enormous momentum swings and a nail biting finish! A draw would have been a justifiable result for both the Japan Goannas and the Macau Lightning, however the Japan Warriors managed to hold on for dear life and won an absolute thriller by a point!
The Macau Lightning’s rise in recent times has been phenomenal and for the first time in a number of years their number of fill-in’s was kept to a minimum, which indicates they’ve got their house in order and their emphasis on player retention has been at a premium and is a credit to the administration and club hierarchy.
The Japan Goannas was made up of 3 AFL Japan clubs including the Tokyo Goannas, Tokyo Bay Suns and the Osaka Dingoes. They went into the tournament with no expectations given their track record whilst attending the Asian Championships in 2013 and 2016, which only garnished a solitary victory against infamous the Tom Liberatore-led Macau Lightning in 2016.
A massive congratulations must be given to all of the Bench Fitness Division 3 teams and their players, who we are certain enjoyed the drop back in pace and accommodated for players of all levels of fitness and abilities, but more importantly kudos must given to the Japan Goannas, who deserved their Grand Final victory and we hope that this is the start of an AFL Japan Representative Team being involved on a more consistent and permanent basis moving forward.
AFL Asia 2019 Asian Championships Bench Fitness Division 3 Results
Round 1 Games
Hong Kong Dragons 3.2 (20) vs Japan Goannas 3.1 (19)
Macau Lightning 6.7 (43) vs Laos Elephants 0.1 (1)
Singapore Wombats 7.6 (48) vs Myanmar Shwe Chinthes 3.1 (19)
Round 2 Games
Hong Kong Dragons 5.5 (35) vs Laos Elephants 0.1 (1)
Japan Goannas 7.7 (49) vs Myanmar Shwe Chinthes 1.2 (8)
Singapore Wombats 2.6 (18) vs Macau Lightning 2.0 (12)
Round 3 Games
Macau Lightning 2.1 (13) vs Hong Kong Dragons 0.5 (5)
Japan Goannas 2.1 (13) vs Singapore Wombats 0.0 (0)
Myanmar Shwe Chinthes 7.4 (46) vs Laos Elephants 2.1 (13)
Bench Fitness Division 3 Standings – After 3 Rounds
Bench Fitness Division 3 Finals
Japan Goannas 2.3 (15) vs Macau Lightning 2.2 (14)
3rd vs. 4th
Singapore Wombats 4.1 (25) vs Hong Kong Dragons 3.0 (18)
5th vs 6th
Myanmar Shwe Chinthes 6.3 (39) vs Laos Elephants 2.3 (15)
Bench Fitness Division 3 Final Standings
Japan Goannas Bench Fitness Division 3 Champions
Macau Lightning Runners-Up
Singapore Wombats 3rd
Hong Kong Dragons 4th
Myanmar Shwe Chinthes 5th
Laos Elephants 6th