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Strong signs from 2012 Ye Olde Orchard Cup

Strong signs from 2012 Ye Olde Orchard Cup

In what has become an annual pre-season tradition, the Ottawa Swans Australian Football Club took the last remaining weekend of preparation to the grounds of Montreal to participate in AFL Quebec’s Ye Olde Orchard Cup. This tournament has and continues to serve the Swans well, as players get a real sense of the game flow and teamwork, while the shortened field allows for greater possessions to work out the final kinks before the start of the Ontario Australian Football League regular season.

With two teams in the men’s side of the draw and four women joining corps, the Swans were well represented in the nine-a-side, round robin style competition. As many new players donned the red and white for the first time, the excitement was palpable on a cold and blustery day on the Concordia campus.

 

From the men’s side of the draw, rookie Mike Lowry built off his strong showing in the winter Metro League and proved a formidable opponent in the centre of the ground, while Tom Fuller and Luke Gillham made their presence known early and often, attacking the ball at every contest and disposing effectively. First year player, Kirk Cushing, playing alongside veteran Steve Ladouceur each displayed relentless desire in the forward line; promising signs for the coming season.

 

Veterans Chris Bellman, Dave Martin, and the formerly retired Nic Desson all kicked truly on the day in very tough conditions. Longtime Swan, Benjamin Birt, playing in his final games for the Ottawa Swans was an effervescent force in the full forward position and truly ran out the day with his head held high. Mike Beall, Marc Magierowicz, Jean-Francois Chapman and Nicolaus Ladouceur proved to be an iron wall along the backline, making tackles across the ground and providing as options for teammates.

The efforts in the men’s side led to a semi-final confrontation between the two Ottawa teams. The competition remained fierce as players battled both each other and the conditions. As the Swans’ A-side jumped out to an early lead with their strong possession across the centre of the ground, the opponents battled back on the heels of newly-named Captain, Darren Roffey, to draw level at the break. In the second half, anchored by player-coach, Chris MacLean, the Swan’s A-side would prove to be too much, kicking truly and come away victors on the day.

 

In the Grand Final, the Swans’ A-side lined up against a formidable opponent in the newly-minted West Island Eagles. With the wind at their backs, the Swans set sail in the first half and jumped to an early lead. Once again, Chris MacLean proved too much for his opponents and racked up the possessions, ultimately collecting Best on Ground recognition. However, the Eagles came roaring back in the second half despite the strong-willed efforts of Fuller, Lowry and the entire Swans’ A-side. In the end, it took an over-the-head snap to put the Eagles in front in the waning moments to get the Montreal-side across the line.

 

On the women’s side of the draw, the Swans joined forces with the Boston Demons and New York Magpies in the three team competition. Ricki-Lee Pitman, supported by fellow Magpies Emma Dickinson and Holly Costanza, each pursued the ball with vigour and led to several forced turnovers. Costanza proved to be a force in ball-up situations, continually allowing for teammates to win possession, while Pitman and Dickinson battled in contests and displayed their aggressive style of play. Catherine Geci, serving as a Boston Demon for the day, won several possessions and disposed efficiently and effectively. Her tenacity on the day won her Best Rookie laurels for the Ottawa women.

 

In all, the tournament served as a great final training and showed excellent signs for things to come for the Swans. Head Coach Chris MacLean was pleased with the effort of the entire squad, “The tournament was a great way for players to get some match fitness and to start to build a playing group that plays as a team. It was a great way for the coaching staff to get some indicators of how well our current playing group is prepared. There is still work to be done but some quick fixes will see the group playing much better footy.”

 

Kudos to the West Island Eagles and Montreal Angels who took home the Ye Olde Orchard Cups on the day, as well as AFL Quebec, organizers, volunteers and supporters.

 

*Photo credit: Luke Anderson

 

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