Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nationals Recap

Things are going crazily at work (we have a Big Project going down this weekend, with the possibility of large amounts of pain and grief), but I wanted to give a brief report about the Aussie Rules Nationals in Lousiville.

As I mentioned below, the mighty Baltimore Washington Eagles had backed up last year's win in second division with an undefeated season, and promotion to first division. Nominally ranked second in the country, we were in a bracket with Boston, Orange County, and Denver. We were going in without three of our top players, but we still felt that we had a good team, and could give some people a scare.

Boston is a team we play every year during the season, and is a team roundly hated for being a bunch of douchebags. We beat them early in the year, which was an indicator that we might be able to step up in class. In typical Boston fashion they claimed they were unlucky to lose; to be fair it was not a convincing win by us, and they were only finally put away when some guy went insane and kicked three goals in five minutes (yeah, that was me, and I should have had for).

To give you an indication of the Boston team's mentality, here's a little story: there is an all-American team that plays other countries, drawn from the American players in the national competition. One of our players was scheduled to wait at Vancouver airport to pick-up a Boston player before a game against the Canadian team. The Boston player, who our man didn't recognise, finally turned up, got in the car, and the first thing out of his mouth was not "Thanks for waiting for me" or "Hi, how you going, my name is Boston Douchebag", but "You were lucky that you beat us, because we were missing some good players".

You stay classy, Boston Douchebag.

As luck would have it, Boston were our first opponent at Nationals. The matches at the Nationals are short affairs: two halves of twenty minutes apiece (opposed to the normal 4 quarters of twenty minutes). It's hard enough to play 3 or 4 (if you make the finals) short games in two days, it would be death if they were full-length. Given the format, it's important to get out to a good start, and be consistent. We knew Boston would be spoiling for a fight, eager to prove they were unlucky to lose to us during the season, and more than happy to take us down a peg. And so it was that Boston came out of the gates hard, kicking the first three goals. We ended up going into half-time three goals behind, a big lead.

The half-time huddle was pretty intense. I distinctly remember thinking "This can NOT be happening!" Losing to Boston in the first game would submarine our chances of making the finals, as well as undoing a lot of our good work for the season. This was a worst case scenario.

Much to our credit we came back hard in the second half, and all of a sudden the game turned into a bloodbath as we piled on goal after goal. In twenty minutes of football we scored 6 goals to zero, turning a first half deficit into an emphatic victory.

Happy as we were over the win, there were some worrying signs. The next game that day was against Orange County, a team I didn't know much about. It would be our first game against a power team from the West Coast, and was sure to be a good test.

The Orange County match started out quite different than the Boston game, as we jumped out early. When I marked and goaled we were up 3 goals to zip, and looking good. Which is right about when it all fell apart - an umpire messed up returning the ball to play, gifting Orange County with a goal. Another couple of quick goals to the OC, and we were once again going into half-time behind on the scoreboard, albeit by a few points rather than a few goals.

Once again the half-time huddle was not pleasant, as we all realised that not only had we let Orange County back into the game, but that they were outplaying us. Once again we roared into the second half, overpowering the opposition and winning comfortably.

That evening we relaxed and grabbed some dinner, well aware that we would be playing Denver in the morning for the chance to play in the final. Denver is truly the class of the US Footy competition, winning the Division 1 championship from 2000 to 2005, and being runner-up in 2006. We could not afford to start of sluggishly against an outfit like that and expect to overpower them in the second half.

Unfortunately the Denver game turned out exactly like that. It was a tight first few minutes, with the Eagles having a few early forays goalwards, but Denver were too polished, and repelled our attacks, converting goals at the other end. For the third time we went in to half-time behind, but this time we couldn't come all the way back. We outplayed Denver in the second half, but it wasn't enough to steal a win, and we were forced to watch the final from the sidelines. As it turned out, in a repeat of last year's final San Diego played Denver, but this time Denver had their revenge.

As for the Eagles the Nationals were a great end to a great season. Finishing 2-1 in our first year in Division 1 and giving Denver a decent game proved not only that we were not a fluke, but that we have a chance to be competitive going forward.

But right now I'm giving my body a chance to heal, while I ply it with alcohol. Just to be safe.

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Last night I found myself playing online poker (something which I haven't done too much of recently). I've been trying to get to the Triple Draw tables when I can, as the lower-limits (1/2 to 3/6) still seem to be good to me. Al and Gracie convinced me to play the MATH, which I did a trifle reluctantly, knowing it started at 10pm and was a double-stack tournament. 15 minutes in I was already complaining to Gracie about the lack of bust-outs. Shortly after that I busted my first player, and realised if I did some of the dirty work myself, I could accelerate the process. At one stage I had 40k, when the second player had 25k or so. Things tightened up, however, and when we went to table, the top 5 stacks (including mine) were at the same one, which made things interesting, but I was able to make it to the final table.

At the final table were such luminaries as Easycure, Zeem, and Joe Speaker. I bobbed and weaved, and finally found myself down to final four. The fateful hand occurred for me in a BvB vs Speaker. I completed from the SB with 9Ts, Joe checked his option. The flop was 49T, two clubs. "Bingo," I think, cunningly checking. Joe obliged by betting at the pot. I thought for a moment, before calling... which I don't necessarily like in retrospect. I liked it even less when another 4 came off, I did not like that card at all. Joe pushed, I felt I had to call, and Mr Speaker rolled over K4o to put me on the rail.

Overall I felt I played pretty well, though I would have preferred to have check-raised on that flop and either taken the pot there or been way ahead. That's how it goes, and I can't be too disappointed given my less-than-regular poker play these days.

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I also wanted to mention that I've been playing in Sundays with Dr Pauly on Fantasy Sports Live. After a rocky first week I think I got to grips with the format a little better, booking a second place finish behind the good Doctor himself. If you're not in this, why not? Give it a go!

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