The Western Crusaders kicked off their 2013 senior mens campaign with a comprehensive win in a practice match over last years Division 2 Champions, the Melbourne Royals.
While both sides had a lot of kinks to work out, it was the Crusaders that were able to draw first blood and put some points on the board. From the Crusaders point of view, it was disappointing that two of their first three offensive series resulted in turnovers by the Crusaders Offense.
Once the nerves were gone and the cobwebs were blown out, the Crusaders Running backs, Chris “T.O.” Nguyen and Tyson Garnham began to assert their dominance, making yards at will. This opened up the passing lanes for Quaterback Clinton Downing, who after throwing an early interception, was deadly accurate for the rest of his game time.
The Cru defense was strong all day with some stand outs, including the hard hitting of Andrew “Chewy” Yeung and Ryan “RJ” Raquel. They were some of the defensive highlights as well as the form of Jules “Sarge” Thirkill, Alan Fisher and returning Crusader Chris “Slugger” Schlegel on the defensive line. A big positive was the game of Crusader player Yassin Omar, who has returned to the Crusaders after some time away from the sport.
The Cru “D” didn’t allow the Royals offense any breathing room apart from one drive, late in the third quarter where there Royals were able to move the ball down the field. The Royals were then stopped at the 2 yard line. Great leadership was shown by the Cru veterans Zack Ulku, Bernard Sison, Reggie Raquel, Steve Crawford and Simon Grima, making big plays, keeping the defence focussed and guiding the rookie players on the defence, Luke Kleinberg, Heui Lai and Sam Ton.
Tuan Truong, Aristotle Hua, Ed Ebinger and Oliver Hodnik were strong on their pass routes for the Cru offense and supported their running backs and Quaterbacks superbly. The Crusaders Offensive line, anchored by Simeon Pantelich, Hayden “Papa” Brown, Mark Bennett, Keaith Moana and Travis “Moose” McKenzie were able to dominate all game at the line of scrimmage giving Clinton Downing and the other backs plenty of room and time to operate and get the job done.
With the half time score at 36-0, the Western Crusaders’ coaches used the second half to “blood” the rookies and give the 2nd and 3rd tier players as much game time as possible. Back up Quaterback Ed Ebinger took the reigns of the offense and showed his improvement and development from last season.
A powerful run down the sideline from Tyson Garnham, knocking over several Royals defenders on his way to scoring a huge long distance touchdown sparked the “new guys” into getting involved in the game. Rookie running back, Matt Hamill got his first taste of game time and Junior sensation Caleb Morgan showed veteran like poise making a couple of big catches and scoring a touchdown. Second year player Oliver Hodnik finished with a solid game, scoring a touchdown in the dying seconds of the game.
While the end result was a convincing 56-0 victory, the Western Crusaders’ coaching staff of Kriss Guidotti, and Brent Weeks, ever the perfectionists, said although they were happy with the result, but there was still plenty to work on and improve on before the Crusaders’ regular season kicks off on May 12th.
Assistant coaches Brendan Bowe John McGinness and Brian Calloway were also were very positive and happy with the result but it did highlight some areas that will need to be worked on at training but were pleased with a great all round team performance.