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In what was one of the best AARFL games ever played (IMHO), the Roswell Roos captured the 2012 AARFL Trophy with a hard fought win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday. The 4-goal difference at the final siren belied the fact that this was a closely fought match, with neither side having much of a lead at any point in the game.

The Doggies were on the scoreboard first with a goal to Adam Ellison, but Roswell quickly tied the game up and moved ahead with goals to Mike Gross and Brendon Johnson. It was back and forth footy, with emotions running high from the start. Some silly responses to umpiring decisions resulted in multiple 25-meter penalties kicks being awarded to both teams. Knowing the importance of this game and the need to keep the players from being carried away with their emotions, the umpire was quick award these penalties and more Roswell goals came about from ‘down-field’ decisions. Johnson and Gross got their second goals and Daniel Searle got his first.

For Western Tim Day, continuing his fine run of form in recent weeks, scored his first as did Brent Bacon. Bacon is having a renaissance this year after being away from the game. He is playing with determination and fire, showing the new players how to play footy. He’s a big reason why Western were in the Grand Final. 

Roswell led at the first break without Chris Moerman having scored a goal. Dave Evans and Braden Medders were blanketing Moerman and this forced Roswell to try a different avenue to goal. Last year Roswell were all Chris Moerman. This year, they seemed to have learned that lesson and the scoring was being spread around.

At quarter time, it was Roswell 5.4 (34) to Western 3.4 (22)

The second quarter was better than the first, with both sides attacking the ball. Excellent roving from Carl Garofalo got him 2 goals and Moerman got on the board with 2 of his own. Western were attacking out of defense with Wayne Kraska moving forward to score his only goal and Paul O’Connor snagging one as well.

Roswell, although in front after the opening minutes of the game, couldn’t shake the determined Bulldog team. They’d get a couple of goals up before Western would claw their way back. Searle was all over the place, closely followed by his shadow Benny Crist. Crist has been given the role this year of tagging the opposition’s best player. Last week it was Simon Davis who could not shake Crist, this week it was Searle.

Western captain Dave Evans stuck with the tough job of minding Moerman, with the help of Medders and Wayne Mitchell. This evened up the rucking contests with Evans staying in the backline. Mitchell has had a difficult time this year with dodgy knees, but nothing was going to keep him out of this game.

At half time, it was still Roswell in front – 9.7 (61) to 6.5 (41).

The third quarter was the Brendon Johnson show. Only 15 years old and competing for the first time this season against senior level players, Johnson has slowly grown in confidence. You could see it coming together in the last regular season game where he was attacking the ball more and giving some fine passes to his teammates. In the Grand Final he was in full bloom, even taking some solid licks from the Western players. He shrugged them off and scored 3 goals in this quarter, showing calmness in front of goal. Having another scorer around him allowed Moerman some freedom as the Bulldogs couldn’t concentrate solely on him. Chris scored another 2 goals and, with captain Mick Frost bursting through the midfield to score one of his own, the Roos really applied the heat to Western.

But the Doggies were not giving up and, with a balanced scoring attack, they matched Roswell goal for goal. Five players scored for Western in the third quarter, the pick of them was Evans’ excellent running goal from the far wing. Evans had moved himself on to the ball in an effort to lift his team. Chase Trujillo, another of the 15 year-olds playing in the AARFL this season, gave a great display of roving to the marking duels. Trujillo scored a goal and was running rampant on the forward line for Western. Justin Willmott, recovering nicely from a nasty ankle injury just 2 weeks ago, scored his first. Justin is in his first season in Atlanta, having moved down from Minnesota, and has fitted in well with the local competition.

At the final break, Roswell had extended their slim lead out to 4 goals – 15.8 (98) to 11.6 (72)

The final quarter was more like a Kookas game than a ‘local league’ game. Players were throwing themselves in packs to get the ball and the tackling was ‘bone-crunching’, literally. Robbie Schierholz is a ferocious tackler and even he was on the receiving end, coming off the field with what looked like a broken hand. Kraska is another player who is normally found under packs; he came off after another tackle.

It was do-or-die time and goals to Western’s Ellison and Dave Monsour brought the Doggies closer to Roswell, but Moerman was able to steady the ship and keep the lead just out of the reach of the Western players.

Goal of the game has to go to Cam Hellinger. After marking on the run and playing on, he stumbled, had an opposing player all over him and still managed to slot through Western’s 14th goal. It showed the desperation that the Western team had all day, never giving in, striving for the win. Hellinger’s goal pulled his team to within 2 goals of Roswell and it was only late goals to Brent Kewley and Johnny Thrash that pushed the difference back out to 4 goals.

When the final siren blew, players knew they had been in a game. The final score didn’t fully reflect the closeness of the play and it was a fitting end to the best season of AARFL footy we’ve had.

Final score was Roswell 18.10 (118) to Western 14.10 (94).

Roswell has regained the trophy they lost last year. Western have regained the respect of the other teams following their 0-fer last year. The future of Atlanta footy is looking very good indeed. Roswell’s Brendon Johnson was awarded the ‘Best On Ground’ award for his 5 goals and excellent play.

Goal Kickers:

Roswell: Johnson 5, Moerman 5, Garofalo 2, Gross 2, M.Frost 1, Kewley 1, Thrash 1, Searle 1

Western: Day 3, Ellison 2, O’Connor 2, Bacon 1, Evans 1, Hellinger 1, Kraska 1, Monsour 1, Trujillo 1


Best Players:

Roswell: Johnson, Moerman, Gross, Garofalo, Searle, Schierholz

Western: Day, Ellison, Hellinger, Evans, O’Connor, Crist


Georgia Downunder Website Design Best Players Award:

Roswell: Brendon Johnson

Western: Benny Crist