WARRIORS: 4.0 7.1 11.5 16.7 (103)
BINTANGS: 3.0 5.2 7.4 7.5 (47)
Warriors: Fleming 7, Munners 2, ODog, Flanna, Kurt, Corey, 2.0, John, Alex
Bintangs: DOS 2, Gilsy, Wizz, JP, Donkey, Benny
Warriors: Eggs, Fleming, Patto, Mike, Alex, Kurt, Corey, LumberJack, ODog
Bintangs: Thomas, James, Harvey, Chewy, Hightower, Little Ox, Kucing
The rivalry between the Malaysian Warriors and the Jakarta Bintangs goes back many years, but was cemented in earnest in 2013 when the Bintangs claimed the AFL Asia Championship, adding fuel to a fire that threatened to erupt like the ‘98 Jakarta riots.
The last time the teams met, in early 2014 in Indonesia, the Tangs went home with the prize in a tight contest against an undermanned Warriors side. That day Malaysia came home with their pride intact, but the same couldn’t be said for their bodies, with President Digger on an oxygen tank and Backy maintaining his 100% record of one injury per game. Suffice to say, the Warriors were keen to peg one back. With such an eventful recent history, the ANZAC Day grudge match was shaping up as one for the ages, and, like a palm-plantation-induced haze, anticipation hung thick in the KL air. Fresh from two first-up wins against Thailand and Vietnam, the Warriors were brimming with a quiet confidence, with unconfirmed whispers that they had already engraved both the match-day trophy and the Boatrace plaque with the words ‘Malaysia Boleh’. The Bintangs too fancied themselves for a victory, having not lost a full-length AFL Asia match since early 2013. Myanmar Fighting Cocks aside, this was indeed a top-of-the-table clash.
The day kicked off with the 100th anniversary ANZAC Day commemoration event at the national monument, Tugu Negara, KL’s less phallic answer to Jakarta’s Monas. The night before, despite numerous overtures to KLM, the Bintangs flight had only been delayed by two hours, so unfortunately for the Warriors, the opposition was still in bed by 1am. Luckily the bus arrived by 5am to take them to the site of the ANZAC Day event (except for their enormous ruckman who prioritised his beauty sleep), so by the time everyone had their fill at the Gunfire Breakfast at the New Zealand High Commission, the Tangs were sufficiently sleep deprived and full of food that any preparation they may have done was sufficiently cancelled out. Those who think Perth-based teams have a huge home-ground advantage have clearly never played AFL Asia.
The goal posts, specially crafted from the best PVC pipe that $4 can buy, were about as straight as a banci, but glinted in the midday sun, having hastily been hastily painted white by a quick-thinking Ben “ADD Patient Zero” Simpson, once he realised that their original grey-blue blended into the background better than a burning, blistered Bule bathing on a Bali beach.
As teams went through their warm ups, it was clear that this was going to be one heck of a contest, and demonstrated why the ANZAC day matches being played all over Asia, and indeed the world, are worthy of the hype. The Bintangs had brought across a mighty squad, with numbers unheard of for a touring team, and the Warriors were fielding arguably the best team in their 23-year history (apart from maybe the Manila Cup in 2012 when Rixy led them to victory). With both teams filled with potential match-winners on every line, it was no surprise that at least 40 people had come from all over Kuala Lumpur to witness the spectacle. Rumours that one female onlooker had fainted from sheer excitement were quickly dispelled when it became apparent that it was only ODog swooning at the prospect of lining up alongside a real, ex-Tigers AFL player in the form of Tim “Roo-thumper” Fleming.
Opposing coaches gathered their charges for the clichéd ANZAC Day rev-up where a bunch of ageing, well-fed, men on expat salaries, who spend their days having their clothes washed by maids were compared with the underpaid, malnourished 18 year olds who lost their lives on the shores of Gallipoli, drowning in their own blood and filth. There was much deliberation about whether to name the freshly-minted, perennial trophy the First World Problems Cup. Other candidates were the Konfrontasi Cup and 2013 AFL Asia Champions Cup, but ultimately the club Presidents settled on the Batik Cup, as the natives of both home countries continue to debate the superiority of their respective threads.
Warriors Captain Kurt “the fittest man in Asia” Stocks won the toss of the vintage 1961 Penny for the Warriors and as soon as the ball was bounced, it was game on.
The first quarter was a tight tussle, but when the ball did get out of the middle, the forwards on both sides were sharper than a Luke Hodge elbow, kicking seven goals straight between them. Tim “Dead Eye Dick” Fleming, roved packs and marked strongly on the lead to kick three in the first 15 minutes, as Digger’s 12-month-long courtship finally paid dividends. The recruitment of two ex-AFL players (the other being Daniel Chick) will go down as the Warriors President’s finest achievement, with his marriage to his beautiful wife running a close second. If punching above one’s weight to secure elusive talent were a sport, then Digger would be world champion.
The Bintangs were winning the hardball early on and it was only the Warriors’ clean possession on the outside that kept their noses in front. Both backlines were solid, particularly Malaysia’s, with Rylo in particular not giving an inch and Andy McDonald as stingy as an Australian government official handing out visas. Mike had met his match, up against an opposing ruckman who he labelled as “the first ruckman in Asia able to provide him with a contest” and MJ was racking up inside-50s at will. When Lee Van Gills kicked a booming goal from 50 metres out, the Malaysian defence, so far in 2015 the best in Asia, knew it was in for a tough day. When the siren sounded to end the quarter, the Warriors found themselves a goal ahead, but plenty to do, having lost the tackle count, the clearance count, and the very ability to count, with Milly struggling to manage the bench and the scoreboard at the same time.
The second quarter began as the first had finished, with desperation all over the ground, but soon the interchange bench was in overdrive. Within the first 10 minutes the Nexus oval resembled a battleground, and the ANZAC analogies became less incongruous, with players dropping quicker than the value of the Indonesian Rupiah. Digger came off clutching his ribs and Jack “Cyclops” Gascard, split the same eye that he’d ruptured in Vietnam. As if that wasn’t enough, Bintangs Captain Drip, who with his blue Mohawk resembled an angry My Little Pony on roids, came off second best after a badly-timed hip and shoulder, which left him on one knee and off to the knackery. By the time play had restarted, both teams seemed a little shell-shocked until a brilliant running goal by Alex “First Toured Aged 12” McLaws provided the Warriors with a 2-goal lead heading into halftime.
The main break gave both teams times to settle and gave Andy “Ladies Man” Knight a chance to fire up the BBQ. Given his self-proclaimed reputation as a SNAG, and his more accurate reputation for commodifying a wiener, he was the perfect man for the job. Clearly however, many years working in the oil and gas sector has caused him to lose touch with reality. At RM10 per serve, many at the ground were heard complaining that Andy’s BBQ sausages were, pound-for-pound, the most expensive meat in South-East Asia.
Rehydrated, but with a depleted bench, the teams returned from their huddles ready to once again do battle under the 32-degree midday sun and 90% humidity that only Asia can provide. Quick goals to the Bintangs had them within 6 points and suddenly the match was closer than the 2013 Malaysian election. But then slowly the home team, initially unsettled by the unprecedented number of debutants, and the absence of Jimmy “Is That The Time?” Drummond, began to click into gear. The Warriors midfield, which had so far displayed the cohesion of a Jokowi Cabinet and the consistency of an Air Asia flight schedule, started to win the clearances. LumberJack Fowler, minus the fulsome beard, but not the silky skills, began to drive Malaysia forward, teaming up with Corey “Attack is the best form of Defence” Weekes, who showed the finesse of someone who’s actually grown up playing footy, which is about as common among the Warriors as a haze-free day in KL. Owen “IronDog “Lewis went in harder than Jimmy 2.0’s abs, Alex repaid the faith of a team that has been grooming him since age 6, Eggs chased down loose balls with the liveliness of one of Kip’s gerbils, and even Karl, in his swansong, leapt like Rioli (although he landed like Monkhorst), knocking the ball to ground for Flanna to swoop and kick the Warriors clear. While the packs were more congested than Jalan Tun Razak on a Friday night and smelled like the KL Monorail during afternoon peak-hour, the Warriors’ silky skills on the outside led to a late flurry of goals that had them up by 25 points at the final change.
With Warriors ruckman Mike bounding around the ground like a pair of Labradors and starting to gain the ascendancy in the taps, Kurt sharked a hit out and kicked a Captain’s goal that would set the tone for the rest of the quarter. After a dismal effort up forward against Vietnam, the move of James “Lindsay Thomas” Patterson to the backline had proven to be a masterstroke, with his performance as the most dominant backman on the ground one of the main reasons the Bintangs were held to just 7 goals for the match. The Bintangs held on valiantly, but started to slip as their minds turned to an ice-cold, post-match beer. If only they’d known that Kip, with the kind of unAustralian effort you’d expect from a Kiwi, had forgotten to bring the ice for said beers, the final quarter may have been more of a contest. Combined with the Warriors’s failure to provide an ambulance at the ground or a hotel with a pool, it really was a dismal performance by the hosting side off the field. Luckily for their supporters, the Warriors’ on-field performance was of a higher standard.
After Jimmy “We Don’t Need You at FF Anymore” Worland seagulled a goal off the great work of Liam “Will 2.0” O’Connell, and “Plugger” John fended off two Jakarta players to kick a goal from outside 50, the result was beyond doubt. With Disco vacuuming up the loose balls in the backline and Andrew “These Sleeve Tattoos Aren’t Just For Show” Munnery contributing two goals, the Warriors were able to reap the rewards of a gruelling pre-season as the sting went out of the game.
The match until that point had been much closer than the scoreboard suggested, and it was probably Flemo’s 7-goal haul and some inaccuracy from the Bintangs that proved to be the difference. The Malaysian Warriors ultimately ran out 56-point winners and continued their 2015 revival that will be put to the test in Manila at the end of May. Jakarta on the other hand will go home and lick their wounds. But once they recover from their absolute pantsing in the boatrace, we can be sure that they’ll pick themselves up, and with spearhead Butcher back in the line-up , they will continue to prove a handful for any opposition over the remainder of the season.
Celebrations went on long into the night, but the best stories cannot go to print, so on behalf of the Malaysian Warriors, a big thank you to the support teams from both sides and to the Bintangs for bringing such a competitive squad on tour. We look forward to the next instalment in 2016.