Nomads get sung the Swan-song

Nomads lose out against Tamworth
By Patrick May (Armidale Express, 11/09/2006)
The New England Nomads hosted the grand final of the Tamworth Australian Football League but went down in emphatic fashion to the Tamworth Swans.

The Nomads never gave up but the game looked lost midway through the third quarter, and the Swans were worthy winners by an eventual score of 12.10.82 to 8.10.58.

It is often said that great teams win the close matches, and the Nomads have had their share of last gasp victories this season, not least against the Swans two weeks ago to win the right to host the season decider.

But despite a strong opening quarter, the Nomads seemed unable to get the ball out of their circle in much of the first half, and by three quarter time, the rain began to fall and the game was gone with the score at 63 to 38.

The Nomads were left to wander the premiership wilderness and wonder what might have been, as they looked a shadow of the team that has set the competition alight this year.

Coach Adrian Walsh was a disappointed man after the match, saying ‘they won the midfield, the defence was under a lot of pressure back there and the forwards never saw it’.

“If you can’t win it across the midfield then you’re going to be in a lot of trouble, and that’s what happened to us.”

“I think there were a lot of nerves out there in the first half, a lot of guys hadn’t played in a grand final before.

“But the good thing was the lads didn’t drop their heads, they kept fighting it out to the end, we didn’t give up it’s just hard when you get behind like that – they won it in the third quarter,” Walsh said.

The Swans opened the scoring with a flowing move, combining good leads down the wing with good delivery and marking skills, and the Nomads were given an early warning of what they were up against.

The home side quickly replied, Warwick Richardson scoring from 40 metres on the run, before scoring another goal to take the lead.

Two fouls off the ball gave Weston Whitby the chance to score a goal from 50 metres out and right in front of goal, and the prolific forward made no mistake.

At this stage it seemed that the Nomads were off to the races, but the game soon descended into scrappy play and the Swans took a 26-20 lead at quarter time with the ball firmly camped in the Nomads half.

It was more of the same in the second quarter, and the more experienced Swans, sho snapped defeat from the jaws of victory in last year’s grand final, showed no inclination to let the Nomads have the lead again.

Another Tamworth goal opened the quarter, and Walsh’s penalty for striking seemed to have little effect on his troop’s intensity.

The Nomads were not playing poorly, but the Swans superior composure, overhead skills and work off the ball certainly made them look the team more likely to finish the day as premiers, and their greater consistency over a whole passage of play impressed even the large and partisan crowd in the grandstand.

Several behinds from John Mahy, Glen Northway and a fantastic mark and goal from Joel Webber reduced the deficit to 42-30, and the Nomads went into halftime with a definite chance of victory despite a mostly tepid second quarter.

With one or two exceptions, notable the blond bomber Rich Malone, who was getting through a mountain of work all over the park, the Nomads still seemed half a step behind, and the third quarter proved to be the most costly for the home side.

While Rhys O’Brien, Tom Hunt and Malone were among those doing their best to clear the ball, combining well at times to bring a glimmer of hope to the home fans, the third quarter was mostly one way traffic, as the Swans dominated posession, field position and skipped out to an unmatchable lead.

The Nomads showed flashes of their potential, but each move seemed to break down at the crucial time due to a wayward delivery or lack of cool thinking.

As the deficit widened, the Nomads seemed to resort to booting the ball up field and hoping, with the result often a kick to Swans-ridden territory.

The Nomads were also not helped by several decisions that seemed inconsistent to several observers in the crowd, and the Swans’ willingness to indulge in the rough and tumble in an attempt to strangle the life out of the game was best matched by Malone, ruckman Hunt and Anthony Reid.

Weston Whitby, who was mostly starved of posession, put a rare spark of life in the Nomads with a well taken left foot snap, but the next minute encapsulated the match as the Swans swept downfield with the ease that had evaded the Nomads all game and immediately replied with their own six pointer.

By three qaurter time the Nomads were looking at a 25-point task and seemed out on their feet, while the Swans opened the scoring in the final quarter with another goal to rub salt in the Nomads’ mortally wounded premiership push.

At this late stage New England’s forward line had barely touched the ball, and Whitby’s enthusiasm in a deeper role began to trouble the Swans, as he scored several goals and took one great mark to cheer up the home fans.

But each good passage of Nomads play seemed to be met and surpassed by the Swans, as the more experienced visitors made more tackles and marks stick and seemed strangely fitter and hungrier for the title.

Whitby and Warwick Richardson were still scoring goals, Richardson posting a six pointer with the last kick of the game, but the celebrating Swans ignored his consolation goal on their way to celebrating a hard earned victory over their long serving rivals, the Nomads.

Nomad mentor Walsh was perplexed by his side’s drop in form after their last gasp victory ovet the Swans in the major semi-final.

“They were better on the day, we had a few players down and I’m not sure the week off did us any good, they had a good run that weekend,” he said.

“They had guys who we knew were good footballers and we just didn’t shut them down like we did in the major semi, they lifted a peg.

“For most of the year they’ve been the form side and we were the only side to beat them, which we did twice, and they have a lot of a handy footballers in that side.

“We work together as a team and man for man, we probably weren’t as strong, but we played together much more through the season that they had.”

Wals was full of praise for his team’s achievements, as the Nomads regained their heavyweight status after a disappointing 2005, and also took the time to single out the efforts of some of Saturday’s best.

“Tom Hunt played really well yesterday, in the back line Brendan Meehan didn’t give up, Rich Malone tried hard all day.”

“Again in the backs Nick McBride tied hard all day under a lot of pressure and so did Glen Northway and Weston Whitby who didn’t get much of the ball, but when he got near it he was excellent.

“Early on the Swans were in a little bit of trouble and their goal kicking was very good, they were threading them from rather impossible angles, they could have been in a lot more trouble but it was first rate kicking that kept them in it.

“We’ll lose a couple of players of course, but the guys that will play again next year will learn something from it.

“The nucleus of the team will still be there.

“One of the things about playing up here is you never get to play with the same guys again, which is a shame but that’s how it goes.”

Saturday’s game was a disappointing end for the Nomads’ class of 2006, but there’s no doubt that they will be back next year for another crack at the Swans and the title.

Not for reproduction except by permission of the Armidale Express.

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