It seems like a long time since the last post I made, and it is... it's now cold in the workshop! Time flies.
Apologies to those who were following for pulling up short before the competition was finished... I may go back and try to do some analysis at a later stage of the last few games and the grades I didn't have much of a look at, but I tried to look at a game just now and it's no good, life has crammed itself in around the euphoria surrounding the competition and there's not enough space left in my brain to try to see whats going on... it just looks like a bunch of fish now.
I can still blog a bit on the general happenings though, and try to do a bit of a wrap-up.
The Semi between GB and Col women was a great game, GB winning 3-0 in the end. If you do look closely at the goals scored, the first two were due to a simple error in who covered where on the defensive bin, twice exactly the same, I remember that much... so in a different universe there was really not much between the teams, with the Colombian team having a bunch of very young players, and the GB team also stacked with young players, both with lots of potential to develop and get even stronger in the years ahead.
GB women then went into the final against NZ women, who also were stacked full of young players, with 8 players on debut at senior worlds, I think I have that right. Eight!!! What a great grade, and how epic is it going to get as all these young teams get better with experience and they already put on a 584minute sudden death final? Or however long it was.
Congratulations to the NZ women for getting the win in the end, and condolences for GB, those games suck extra much to lose after everyone has destroyed themselves like that in golden goal.
While all the action was going on, ourselves and the French were warming up across in the lanes.... and warming up.... and warming up..... by the end, despite all that warming up I didn't feel any warmer than usual.
We have had that experience before actually, in 2006 in Sheffield the Canadians and Aussies battled through sudden death and we had to re-calc our warm-up in the same way a few times as well. That time we were in a separate pool though, whereas in Quebec we were in the same pool and could see the game, and it was our Women playing! Pretty much all of us were watching as we swam, at least in little patches. How can you not.
To the game, our game.... well, first, although we would have been excited in different ways and for different reasons to play anyone in that final, it was great to have the French as the opponents. They are a great nemesis for us... they pounded us when I first made the team in 2000, then we knocked them out in 02 to everyone's surprise including perhaps our own, then we had the wood on them for a couple of comps, then they pipped us in two tight finals in 08 and 2013... as Rob said afterwards, that was his third final against them, and they had won the first two.
Definitely opponents to get excited about. Hilariously, I felt we experienced some historical karma balancing itself out slightly before the game started. When teams line up and teamlists are read out, it's often an english-speaking commentator who does it, and though everyone does their best, I hate to think how many french names have been mangled by english mis-pronunciation over the years. This is a mono-lingual kiwi speaking here.
On this occasion, the commentator was (I assume) french-canadian, and despite my understanding that many french-canadians are bilingual and actually speak english, the announcer made what I suspect to be the most hilarious and off-course team-list announcement in history... I didn't even register that he was reading out our names until he had got to number 5, I thought he was speaking in french and we would hear the translation shortly! I'm not sure if he was taking the piss, but whether or not he was it was great, broke the ice in a way. I hope it didn't come across as making light of the occasion but I for one was laughing, couldn't help it. I think, and I hope, that he then did a great job of announcing the french lads, and as I said, balanced the scales a little for pronunciation wrongs done to them in the past in this respect.
The game itself was epic. I've played in six finals and they all felt different, but it's a special thing to play as part of a team that has all the boxes ticked in terms of knowing their plans and players. The only downside to it is knowing how rare those moments are to come together, and knowing that for our young fellas this, their first experience of the biggest pressure on the biggest stage, is going to be a hard bar to reach again.... but that's what the younger generation do right? Push that bar higher.
It was definitely a game of huge pressure. The french had basically clawed their way through the tournament with a mixture of great play, very good desperation defense, and sometimes just winning purely through determination. A team like that is very very dangerous and despite many of them being young and a new generation, we knew they were going to find another level in the final.
I'll share the clips of the goals. It's hard to write about this without doing a bit of cheerleading for my team-mates.
We scored an epic goal here after 4 minutes, great backtackle by Andrew turning a french attack into a counter for us, and linking with almost everyone in the water in this play. Except the goalie, who on occasions like this plays the important role of watching everyone else do something epic and trying to be ready in case something goes wrong.
We put on a bit of pressure for a while but the second half of the first half the French had us on our bin and in our half the whole time. It took until 6 mins remaining in the game for us to get enough pressure on them to force an advantage, basically pressured Raphael to try a defensive switch to relieve, but when their open half got it our support players managed to shut down the outside. When they couldn't get a forward onto his pass Rob jumped on it and fed Ben to put us 2-0 up.
This really put the pressure on for us. A few minutes later Ben got a break and Rob got a chance to run at goal and he made the most of it
And... all of a sudden the game was over. I felt for the French guys, but I've had my share of final losses... I was over the moon to be in a team that got a win.
As well as the game, the tournament was over too. No time to feel sad, had to get in there and congratulate the girls for winning their amazing final, some chats with the french in the showers, a lot of backslapping, thank-yous to all the awesome kiwi supporters and an exhausted kind of haze drinking sports drinks and snacking purely out of habit before throwing the snacks in the bin and refusing to re-fuel out of weird principle because I never had to again... and getting to the ceremony, which was great.
One thing the organisers did seem to forget at the ceremony was to thank the big group of refs we had, I didn't see them getting any bottles of wine which would have been nice, but I hope they were gifted many drinks later on in the night. They did a great job as a collective and as individuals.
Then... function time. I do have photos of this stuff. And some highlights, which I will pull out for one more post I reckon, it's late tonight.