On Saturday 26 April, in front of a large crowd at Kanchanaburi, the Thailand Tigers defeated the Jakarta Bintangs to win the prestigious ANZAC Cup.
The game was played in great spirit with neither side backing down in a contest, prompting former POW Bill Haskell to say, “We never expected the game to be this tough”.
In an electrifying opening term, the Tigers got out of the blocks early, through Damian Hoo and Mango’s run through the midfield, and Saul’s winning the contested possessions, the Tigers posted the first three goals before the Bintangs could mount a response. The Tigers defense led by stand-in skipper ‘Thwaiter’ were rock-solid, however some missed opportunities cost the Tigers and opened the door for the Bintangs to post a couple of quick replies. So after a terrific start the Tigers only found themselves up by 14 points at the first break.
The second quarter was a much more competitive contest with the Bintangs winning a lot of the ball and converting into full points. However the Tigers were able to answer every challenge by the Bintangs with their mass of forwards in David Baguely, ‘Tuck’ Hunt, Roger Sefton and Ryan Collett proving too many for the Bintang defense to man-up, and at half time the lead was a steady 22 points.
The third quarter was indifferent for the Tigers, as they dominated the play for the entirety of the quarter, but were unable to convert on the scoreboard. With the raft of changes to the team each quarter, the Tigers never appeared to settle into a rhythm, however the fierceness of play and determination to register a win shone through, and with the back line miserly against the Bintang forwards, the midfield being led by Rex, Hooey and Saul, our forwards were continually fed chances at goal. James ‘Jimmy’ Lie came into the midfield also to immediate effect, shutting down the Bintangs key playmaker and winning plenty of the ball himself.
The Tigers conversion rate was horrible however, with a strengthening breeze blowing across the ground, many of the Tigers reliable goal scorers were missing chances to close the door on the opposition. Kicking 1 goal 8 behinds for the quarter. However with this much of the play the opposition were unable to close the widening gap.
The last quarter needed the Tigers to hold firm against the opening onslaught expected from the solid Bintangs, and Rowdy and CJ alternating in the ruck were the backbone to a determined Tigers team full of confidence. Baggers was back in the forward line after a rest the previous quarter, and he and Aaron ‘Aggots’ Klutke proved pivotal targets. What they didn’t mark they crumbed and gave off to teammates, the ball seeming always in our forward half of the ground.
Rex and Hooey were running out of defensive brilliantly, getting great assistance also from Bob Bedford who as usual was showing his younger counterparts how to tackle, chase, harass, and win the footy. Rhino kicked his fourth for the day, Baggers kicked his fifth, and the Tigers were home after a tough, entertaining game of football.
In a moving after match presentation, Mango was humbled for the first time in memory, when the Diggers awarded him with the ‘Chicken Smallhorn’ cup for best player afield. Afterwards Eric Wilson of the Quiet Lions tour addressed the crowd and thanked both teams for their efforts. The match is considered an important part of the ANZAC day events in Kanchanaburi and gives people from all generations a chance to pay their respects to the ANZAC spirit. Lest we forget.
Thailand Tigers – 11 . 15 . 81 defeated Jakarta Bintangs - 7 . 8 . 50
Goals: Baguely 5, Collett 4, Rexilius 1, Mango 1
Best players: Mango, Thwaiter, Hooey, Baggers, Rowdy, J-Rex.
The Tigers last couple of games now has shown dominant wins, firstly playing beautiful football against Lao and Vietnam, and now winning a tough, scrappy encounter against quality opposition in the Jakarta Bintangs. Who is next for the Thailand Tigers as they continue their rise up the Asian football ranks?