(GOLD COAST, Australia – Wednesday, 11 December) Legends Football League Australia (or ‘LFL Australia’) officials entered the great unknown on Saturday night in Penrith, New South Wales just outside of Sydney, Australia. The game would feature a vast majority of players who have never touched an LFL field and coaches with no LFL experience coupled with a rookie LFL Australian production team.
What was in the favor of the sport and its launch in Australia was a proven track record of Aussies supporting the sport with near capacity crowds with its All-Star Games in Brisbane and Sydney as well as its previous television ratings on FOX’s Fuel TV.
It did not take long after the LFL production staff arrived to CentreBet Stadium to realize the LFL has established a great family atmosphere and culture with league members flying in from almost every Australian state to assist and be part of the sport’s historic debut.
Once the initial nervous energy wore-off, the scene looked like any LFL GameDay anywhere in the world with athletes and coaches in full preparation mode, members of the media on-hand and the league staff setting the stage.
On this night, the honor of playing in the first-ever LFL Australia game and first-ever ‘State of Origin’ game would belong to the New South Wales Surge and Queensland Brigade. Outside of US imports, Tamar Fennell, Chloe Butler and Monique Gaxiola, this game would include untested athletes.
After all the pre-game festivities, it was finally time to kickoff in front of a rowdy New South Wales crowd that created an atmosphere of a major rugby or soccer match complete with fans who’s bodies were fully painted to drum-beats and chanting throughout the crowd. Queensland would take first possession and a team that very few provided any credit, especially offensively speaking, drive down the field against an aggressive NSW defense for a 7 play 27 yard drive. However, as was the case most of the night, Queensland after advancing to the RedZone came away with no points as the NSW defense held on an incredible goal-line stand when Chloe Butler tackled Jayne Caldwell on the 1yd line on 4th and Goal.
That goal-line stand turned the momentum in favor of NSW and their offense engineered a 6 play 47 yard drive that was headlined by LFL Australia’s newest star, a red-headed spark plug named Bonnie Gillespie who finished the drive with a break-away 21 yard touchdown run and also ran it in for the extra point giving NSW a 8-0 lead over Queensland.
Despite being beaten and battered throughout most of the 1st half, Queensland’s feisty Quarterback Jayne Caldwell rallied her Brigade troops and mounted a monster 10 play 49 yard drive that was capped by US import Tamar Fennell running it into the Endzone for an 11yd run to narrow the gap 8-6 with NSW leading.
NSW answered on the following drive by keeping it on the ground with Gillespie as she continued to torch the Queensland defense with a near-record LFL 1st half performance of 77 yards on only 8 carries. As the Queensland defense finally keyed onto Gillespie, NSW offensive coordinator Jason Gaffey called a naked Quarterback boot-leg with Jacinda Barclay who took it in for a 5 yard touchdown and 2pt point conversion to give NSW a 16-6 lead going into halftime.
While NSW led at halftime, there was more confidence in the Queensland locker-room as the No.4 ranked team that was expected to be blown-out by the No.1 ranked team, only trailed by 10pts.
That Queensland confidence was short-lived as the flood-gates opened up in the 3rd quarter and NSW showed why they were the pre-season No.1 ranked team in Australia. NSW dominated on the ground with Gillespie finishing with a staggering 181 yards on 18 carries, complimented by Barclays goal-line running which included three 2nd half touchdowns and throwing for another touchdown to Shari Onley. NSW scored an unanswered 28pts. in the 2nd half.
However the real story outside of Game MVP Gillespie was the NSW defense that played with a swagger and confidence you would see with a possible championship-bound team. Queensland’s Caldwell was picked up off the turf after almost every pass play and Queensland’s high-profile US import Fennell was held to only 52 yards on 14 carries. Butler had a career high 10 tackles and rookie Bronte Zeiher played possessed often swarming to the ball alongside fellow NSW defensive players.
Outside of the a lack of passing game, NSW looked every bit of the team that has been preparing for this moment since early 2012 and now await the match-up of the year versus No.2 ranked Western Australia Angels in Perth on 21 December.
For Queensland, the pre-season criticism of being too soft and lacking size as well as intensity, proved to be correct. The lone bright spot was at Quarterback with Caldwell showing the fire of a winner, perhaps she can rally the team prior to their 4 January home opener at Skilled Park vs. No.2 ranked Western Australia Angels.
The New South Wales Surge vs Queensland Brigade ‘State of Origin’ match will be broadcast nationally in Australia on Saturday, 14 December in high-definition at 10:30pm.
Global fans should check local listings for the broadcast. US fans will be able to watch the match on Saturday, 14 December on the LFL’s official YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/MyLFL.
|passing yds (net)||43||4|
|TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS||39-118||25-198|