Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
The Big V fell to their second consecutive loss on the 2017 VAFA Ireland Tour, going down to Donaghmore Ashbourne by 29 points.
Ashbourne, who were represented by five VFL-quality County players and one AFL-quality All-Ireland star, showcased the utmost discipline in the second half as they removed the Big V’s ability to use their physical superiority by refusing to handball. Instead, they kicked and tapped on every ball to pressure the Big V defence on their way to six second half unders.
Leading by just one point at three quarter time, Ashbourne’s change of game plan led to three unders and five overs in the final term while allowing just one over at the other end.
James Musster (Prahran Assumption) continued his improvement with the round ball in a dominant display through the midfield, piecing together an outstanding four-quarter performance on his way to the Spirit of the Big V Award. He consistently provided the Big V forwards with opportunities via explosive runs through the middle of the ground alongside the ever-impressive Denis Symeopoulos (Old Xaverians).
For the third consecutive game, Symeopoulos looked dangerous whenever near the ball and provided numerous highlights with his elite run and carry.
The highlight of the match occurred 60 seconds into the third term when Tom Jok (St Kevin’s OB) struck an incredible soccer goal for the Big V’s sole under, making it two unders from three games for the SKOB star.
Brodie McLaughlin (Bulleen Templestowe) and Chris Hughes (St Bernard’s) withstood the consistent pressure of the Irish with standout displays from defence, while Luke Di Lizio (St Bernard’s) and Lochy Dornauf (Uni Blacks) toiled away courageously.
Despite the loss, the Big V had one more scoring shots than Ashbourne, 22-21, and their second term was arguably the strongest quarter of International Rules they’ve displayed all tour with four overs to one under.
Skipper George Burbury (Old Geelong) led the charge yet again in the second, while Dornauf excelled up forward with consistent pressure on the Ashbourne defence. Despite battling illness, Sam Hibbins (Collegians) fought valiantly in his first bout in the ruck, showcasing his versatility and elite aerobic capacity.
The Big V were outstanding throughout their entire tour of Ireland, defeating Bishopstown and narrowly falling to Tuam Stars last week. They now travel to London where they will face off with AFL Europe in an Australian rules football game to conclude the tour.
VAFA: 1.7.14 (41)
Donaghmore Ashbourne: 7.7.7 (70)
Spirit of the Big V Award: James Musster (Prahran Assumption)
Best: Musster, Hughes, McLaughlin, Dornauf, Burbury, Hibbins
Goals: (Unders) Jok 1, (Overs) Burbury 1, Armstrong 1, Symeopoulos 1, Dornauf 1, Nagel 1, Dolan 1, Musster 1