It was finally time for the Hamburg Dockers to sleep in and let the competition come to it. When a side is perched comfortably atop the AFLG premiership table such luxuries are sometimes afforded and Saturday was such an occasion.
Frankfurt was asked to make the trip north but it did so undermanned; only 12 players arrived at Hamburg’s Stadpark, meaning several Dockers pulled on a red jumper instead of the beloved purple. The Redbacks were gifted genuine pace in Birksy, height in M Klomp and swagger in RTB – who quickly snapped up the #69 guernsey.
But with the return of Pete May from Australia meant the Dockers were able to select an intimidating starting line-up and set to work early to make a statement against a likely finals-match-up. A strong wind and several opponents were no match for S Gilbert whose hands overhead were elite from the opening bounce, while May also required little time to impact the game with an early goal and plenty of possession – although his time away from football was made clear when Klompy ran him down deep in defence and converted for a Frankfurt goal.
Even though the scoreboard continued to tick over, the manner in which Hamburg was beginning to run away with the game before half time was unconvincing. Defensive run was down, communication was poor and it seemed the Redbacks simply wanted the ball more at stoppage.
At the main break coach P Richter called on the forwards to present higher up the ground and for players on every line to attack the contest with increased ferocity… his players listened.
A Klein was sensational in defence, tackling with persistence and without mercy – even sneaking up the ground to finish a classy attacking drive. Forwards pushed further into the midfield in order to improve the link between offence and defence, while Gilbert sat deep and let the ball come to him. It was an effective strategy given he finished the day with another seven goals to remain in the hunt for AFLG’s Coleman Medal, but it was a dangerous strategy; at one point he directly ignored a free coach Richter who, after an earlier failed screamer attempt by Thring was unimpressed with his forwards’ showboating. He mumbled something about coaching at St. Albans next year…
H Clarkson was as busy as ever through the middle of the ground and although the strong cross-ground wind made skills difficult the Dockers looked a much-improved unit through the third term – perhaps typified by a trademark overhead mark/conversion from the RAMpaging Bull.
The home side eased off in the last term with plenty of players suffering short-term bouts of goal fever, which is an unfortunate condition known for inducing pot-shots when within kicking distance of goals.
The lacklustre finish to the game added some respectability to the final score (for Frankfurt), which although ended with a 105-point win for the competition’s benchmark, it wasn’t a performance that sat well heading into a month of games against Germany’s most difficult opponents.
– An Interested Observer
(noch keine deutsche Übersetzung)