Thursday, 1 March 2018

The St Albans Outdoor Championships

Western Flickers TFC WASPA 21

6 hardy adults and 7 juniors braved the luxury suburb of St Albans in western Melbourne for the first Outdoors Championships. A chance to not only challenge your opponent but also face the elements in battle.

A delightful day greeted competitors, 29 degrees and light winds sometimes, a bit stronger at others as players discovered.

In the Open competition, Group A commenced with a tense game between David Simpson and Steve Wright which the former won 1 – 0. The ever-punctual Benny Ng strolled in for a hard fought 2-1 win over David and then dispatched Steve 3-1 to secure a direct path to the semi-finals.

Group B proved a tighter affair with Adrian Connolly, Kevin Grant and Simon Briffa sharing 3 draws. Simon progressed by virtue of 2 1-1 draws whereas Kevin and Adrian were left scoreless. Back in the UK, the Littlewoods Pools Panel were heard to be launching an investigation. Still, Kevin and Adrian were sent to “shots” to determine 2nd and 3rd with Adrian prevailing.

The Junior Competition Group A commenced with Benjamin Ng defeating Billy Wright 1-0. Billy then had another tense battle with Jayden Truter which ended 0-0 which left the final game to decide placings. Benjamin, with a goal in each half, sent Jayden into the 5th place group and meant Billy advanced to the semi-finals.

Group B had 4 players, with the 3 Briffa siblings once again drawn together. Alex and Harrison played the first game in the group and in a small surprise based on recent form, Harrison defeated his younger brother 1-0, which proved the decisive result in the group. Charlotte Wright began the group with a 1-0 win over Crystal Briffa, but she needed results against Harrison and/or Alex to advance. However, she fell valiantly to Alex 1-0 and Harrison 2-0, leaving her in 3rd place. Crystal succumbed 3-0 and 4-0 to her older bullies, sorry brothers, although controversy reigned when she was denied a goal against Alex when he dragged the ball in with his keeper. After much debate and booing from the viewing crowd, Pelicans Chief Tournament Referee Adrian Connolly ruled no goal. This writer is reminded of the Frank Lampard controversial no goal at South Africa 2010!!!!!!

So onto the final stages. The three bottom junior players formed a round robin for 5th through 7th place. Charlotte once again defeated Crystal 1-0, and Jayden defeated Crystal by the same score. In the decider, Charlotte scored a goal in each half to defeat Jayden 2-0 and claim 5th spot, scoring valuable points in the WTF 2018 League.

In the Junior semi finals and following a mix up of FIFA proportions by the organising committee, the correct players finally took their spots. Benjamin took on Alex in a keenly contested battle and managed to come out on top with the only goal of the game. In the other semi-final, Harrison scored a tough win over a rapidly improving Billy by the same score.

Alex took on Billy for 3rd place and after a tough 0-0 draw, Alex scored twice in “shots” to take 3rd. The final was the same, a tense affair that ended 0-0 between Benjamin and Harrison and went to “shots”, with Harrison prevailing 3-1. This was Harrison’s first WASPA win for 12 months after he won WASPA 11 in February 2017 and his second WTF WASPA win.
Over in the Open comp, 2nd and 3rd in each group progressed to a Barrage knock out round. In difficult windy conditions, David and Kevin, and Adrian and Steve played out 0-0 draws with David progressing on “shots” 1-0 and Adrian 4-3. Kevin remarked that it was unusual for an Englishman to be eliminated on penalties!!! In fact it was two Englishmen!!!!

The semi finals threw David into battle with Simon and Adrian with Benny. Again difficult conditions with swirly wind meant it was tough to control possession and both games were scrappy affairs. Both resulted in 1-0 wins for David and benny, who met for the second time in the competition.

Another tight battle ensued, again in difficult conditions where the breeze had picked up as the afternoon wore on. It was tighter than their Group stage encounter and Benny swept forward about half way through the second half against the wind and managed to score. He held on for the remaining 5 minutes to win yet another WTF WASPA event, his 13th.

So, an interesting event, perhaps hampered at times by the wind which did not help matters but mostly it seemed to provide an interesting additional challenge to games. Out in the great outdoors was fun and getting sun on the back, playing table football can only be a good thing.

(Report by Steve James)