With the dust now settled on a historic weekend of footy in Asia, we rate the performances of all the teams that helped create history on 13th and 14th of May, 2017.
Shanghai Tigers: 10/10*
A very well resourced Tigers team were solid all day long on home their home soil, defeating AFL Asia Division 1 powerhouses, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore and team on the rise Guangzhou to lift the 2017 Shanghai Cup. Ruckman Daniel Walters dominated the immaculately prepared Wellington College pitch all day, providng great supply to the Shanghai midfield and was a deserved winner of the Player of the Tournament. However, an asterisk will remain over their win, with Tigers President (and co-organiser) David Trethewey conveniently misinterpreting the rules around player eligibility (20 per side, not 20 per game…). After Treth’s massive effort to help put on the Cup and his several media performances around the weekend, including this one on Triple M giving a fair razz to his former teammate Shannon Watt, we will forgive him for rotating in a few extra Shanghainese onto the field this year, but all eyes will be on their numbers in future tournaments!
Singapore Wombats: 9/10
Another Grand Final, another loss for Singapore, but for a team that has traditionally not won many, if any games pre-Champs, they will be very happy about their 4-1 record at the Shanghai Cup. The 2016 Champs runners-up defied Wombats logic by starting their day in great style, coming back from 3 goals down at half time to beat the Vietnam Swans by a point in their first game of the day. Further strong wins against Lao and Beijing saw them move to the Semi Final as the Pool B’s first placed team, where they defeated Guangzhou in an exciting Expat vs Locals clash. With a unusually small touring party of 15 (around 10% of their total player database) the fresher Shanghai were a class above in the Grand Final, with club legend Rooster sure to have stern words with teammate Tim Nash after he stole his limelight and led all goalkickers with 9 for the day.
Vietnam Swans: 8/10
After their controversial 1 point opening loss to Singapore, a ragtag bunch of Swannie legends, locals and ring ins combined well to score dominant victories over Lao and Darkside Dragons to play their first finals game since winning the 2015 Manila Cup. The tattooed vegan hipster midfield of Tommy Doer and Jake Norris, supplemented with the beef of Cambodian Eagle mercenary Brett Norton provided great supply to forward Timmy Pickert when they weren’t kicking it over his head. The Swannies unfortunately running out of legs in the Semi after a valiant battle against Shanghai. The Swannies three local Viet representatives Vinny, Dino and Dang also racking up valuable minutes throughout the day.
Guangzhou Scorpions: 8/10
The Scorps came to Shanghai with some good form in their domestic SCAFL competition and for a team that was comprised mostly of local Chinese players, did exceptionally well in Shanghai to also reach a semi final ahead of much more fancied opposition Hong Kong and Malaysia. With Port Adelaide’s much hyped Guangzhou recruit Chen Shaoliang still on the sidelines recovering from his ACL injury, Aussie-Chinese footy legend Jamie Pi was a great addition to the team, adding plenty of experience and toughness to their line up. Midfielder “The Mountain” Qiu Xiaoshan was also very impressive, winning the Local Player of the Tournament medal. A very pleasing tournament for the Scorpions who played some of their best footy in front of the visiting AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, who will surely leave Shanghai with a very positive impression about the development of local footy in Southern China.
Malaysian Warriors: 7/10
The Warriors have big hopes in this their 25th Anniversary year and will be disappointed to miss a semi final berth by percentage, losing just one game to eventual winners Shanghai. While disappointed, there will be plenty of consolation in their 1-point defeat of rivals Hong Kong Dragons. The Dragons, however, having the last laugh after their seconds team the Darkside Dragons’ lackluster 58-0 loss to Guangzhou, which ultimately cost the Warriors a finals spot. Coincidence? Maybe not, although what is certain is there will be no love loss the next time these two proud sides meet!
Beijing Bombers: 6/10
On the back of impressive performances from ageless club legends Glenn Fitzpatrick, Matty Bahen and Nigel Goode, who between them we estimate have around 100 years of footy experience, the Bombers dazzled the Shanghai Summer BBQ early on in the piece, but with cold beers awaiting them on the sideline just couldn’t maintain the pace at the business end of the day, going down to Singapore by a couple of kicks in their penultimate round game. The longest serving club President in AFL Asia Mic Mittasch will be pleased with his Club’s continued rebuild and will take much confidence going into their China Cup home game against old rivals Shanghai.
Hong Kong Dragons: 4/10
A disappointing day out for Asia’s most decorated team, with defeats to Shanghai and Malaysia and just one win against Japan, which saw the Dragons hit the showers and head out on the town before the presentations had begun. With most Dragons players more used to playing against each other this time of year in their SCAFL competition, finding some team chemistry in the pubs of Wanchai will be crucial ahead of their Asian Champs campaign, if they want to return to the winners table in this post-Bowski era.
Lao Elephants: 4/10
It was a great effort by Asia’s men in pink to even make it to Shanghai, with Club Patron and Australian Ambassador to Laos John Williams playing a crucial role to ensure visas were obtained just in the nick of time. Young 15-year old player Kai Bottrill was a standout player for Lao and did not take a backwards step all day despite his inferior size, experience and age. His tackle on a Singapore’s Tim Nash, twice his size, right in front of the team tents will go down as one of the highlights of the day, which was re-enacted at Jiangwan Stadium on Sunday much to everyone except Nash’s delight.
Japan Goannas: 3/10
No wins for the Goannas in the Shanghai Cup, as they continue to evolve their game from 9-a-side Japan Top League astro-turf champions onto the rigors of 12-a-side AFL Asia footy on grassed surfaces. Their local Japanese players were very impressive over the course of the weekend and they could have been a lot stronger if Samurai’s leading goalkicker Michato had’ve not rested himself ahead of Sunday’s big game at Jiangwan Stadium. After their return to AFL Asia at the 2016 Champs, it was great to see the Goannas traveling once again and we only hope to see more of them in the future.
Darkside Dragons: 2/10
The decision to move the Darkside from the Masters Division to the Open Division was no doubt be debated at length within the Dragons boardroom, but always great to see some of the Dragons legends and development players on the field. They showed moments of class in Shanghai but were unable to match the fitness and skills of their opposition.
The Malaysian Masters: 8/10
A memorable Masters Division Grand Final victory to the Warriors over The Slugs from Adelaide, overturning a 62-28 defeat to the Slugs in the round games. It was the Warriors Club legends who got them over the line, with President Digger and Weeksy booting the last two goals of the game in the final minutes. Great to also see some talent from AFL House in Melbourne having a run with the Warriors, which will no doubt go far in helping efforts to grow footy in Asia. A great end to an epic Grand Final that was fitting of the well contested Masters Division.
The Slugs: 7/10 (10/10 on the stage)
Great to welcome Adelaide Masters outfit The Slugs to Shanghai, which included ex-AFL legend Shannon Motlop amongst other legends of the SA Masters scene. They looked strong all day (and night) but were unable to maintain their unbeaten form losing to an inspired Warriors team who came home like the wind in the Grand Final. Vince Mallia’s performance on the stage, blowing out the speakers of the guest band was another great highlight of the day and spoke volumes about the fun and excitement that the Slugs brought with them to Shanghai.
The Barbarians: 6/10
Jakarta Bintangs President’s Paul Halliday’s baby, the Barbs consisted of a mix of young local players from Jakarta, Borneo, Japan and Cambodia, mixed in with a few ring ins unearthed the previous night or two at the Camel. While understandably slow to find chemistry among the many different languages spoken, Halliday’s jibberish just one of them, the Barbarians were super impressive in their gutsy 37-34 defeat over the much more experienced Coral Coast Sons. The Barbarians experiment proving more than worthwhile, with many of the local boys getting some valuable game time together ahead of their Lions game the following day.
Coral Coast Sons: 5/10
Another traveling band of misfits and legends, led by Bali Geckos and Essendon legend Ricky Oleranshaw. The boys from WA’s majestic Coral Coastline had a great day out on the park, not winning any games but winning plenty of friends with the way they went about their footy on and off the field.
China AFL Club Team: 8/10
The development of local footy in China has come a long way in a short amount of time, with many veterans of China footy scene very impressed about the continued improvement of the Chinese National team, defeating a combined AFL Asia Lions team in the curtain-closer at Jiangwan Stadium on Sunday. The last time we saw Team China on this ground was in 2010 when they played and lost heavily to the Japanese Samurai’s at the Shanghai Showdown preseason exhibition game. Since then the team has grown under the direction of Port Adelaide’s investment in Southern Chinese footy, and under the directorship of Guangzhou Scorpions President/China footy legend Zhang Hao (Howard). After a nervous start to the game and a passionate half time speech from Chinese Port Recruit Chen Shaoliang, the Chinese boys fired up to overcome a half time deficit to defeat the AFL Asia Lions in what was a very entertaining and impressive demonstration of local footy in Asia, 4-9-33 to 4-2-26. Pleasing also was the large amount of Port Adelaide’s traveling fans who stayed on to support the boys and provide such great support, particularly during both team’s lap of honor following the game.
AFL Asia Lions: 7/10
Despite losing one of their co-coaches at the Chinese boarder ahead of the game, the combined AFL Asia Lions experiment proved to be a huge success giving 24 local players from Indonesia, Japan, Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam the experience of a lifetime. Standouts from the game included the high marking of Garudas Timbul, Boy and Michael, the run and carry of Cambodian winger Nas and the goalscoring prowess and experience of Japanese forwards Michato and Ijuy. Having several different languages and cultures to deal with, Coach Brett Quantraugh was very proud of the way the boys came together and represented for their clubs and AFL Asia on the day. The initiative proving a big success, which will hopefully be built upon in future years.
Port Adelaide: 9/10
The Power were devastating in Shanghai, putting on an dominant performance to the sold-out crowd of 10,118, including a healthy contingent of locals among the footy fans who traveled from Australia and around Asia. Talk of polluted skies and asthma pumps were put aside when fans arrived at the immaculately prepared Jiangwan stadium, the temperature in the high 20s with the air quality no worse than a similar windy, hazy day in Sydney or Melbourne.
Port’s Justin Westhoff provided the highlight of the match in their second- quarter onslaught when he soccered through a spectacular goal from the boundary. In a game defined by its travel challenges, Port midfielder Brad Ebert brushed aside his particularly tough lead-up to be best afield, racking up 30 disposals after only flying to Shanghai on Friday, following the birth of his son Leo.
Gold Coast Suns: 1/10
It was a disappointing day for the Suns and their several elderly fans who came to Shanghai to support them. Their Coach arriving with more ready-made excuses about traveling time and air quality than hairs on his head. Jarrod Harbrow continued his strong form to be best of a group that didn’t look to happy to be in Shanghai, with Gary Ablett well off his best, despite racking up 29 disposals. Any fears of Chinese fans jumping ship to support the red and yellow team were allayed when Port quickly took control to lead by 21 points at quarter-time. They killed off the match with six goals to one in the second term to lead by 42 at the main break and were rarely challenged thereafter by the lackluster Suns, who didn’t waste anytime in getting out of Jiangwan Stadium before a selfie could be snapped, to embark on their 126 hour flight back to the Gold Coast, all except for Rocket traveling in economy class.
Photos courtesy of Michael Pross and Darren Whitfield. View all the images from the Shanghai Cup here: http://myalbum.com/prossyshanghaicup2017