by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
It would seem the AFL has succeeded in gaining new territory and fans with Melbourne and Brisbane putting on a thrilling show in Shanghai. It was the very first Australian Rules football game ever played in China and the Demons pulled off a stunning come from behind win over Brisbane. Melbourne's livewire forward Liam Jurrah stole the show with five goals, including the last three of the match. His third goal in the final term came on the final siren to give the Demons the lead and the win.
Both teams were missing key players. The Demons were without Brad Green, Aaron Davey and James Frawley while Jonathan Brown, Simon Black and Brendan Fevola were absent for the Lions. Melbourne was captained by Brent Moloney and the Lions were led by Jed Adcock. The enthusiastic crowd was a mix of Australian-based supporters, expatriates and locals. Some of the locals had clapping sticks which certainly would have been used when Jurrah took a screamer (high-leaping mark or catch of the ball) in the final term and after Brisbane's Amon Buchanan kicked a goal from the boundary. The match was broadcast live in Mandarin and English to a large viewing audience in the Shanghai region on International Channel Shanghai and Great Sports Channel.
Both sides were somewhat inaccurate in the opening term, but Brisbane had the better of Melbourne with three goals to one for a 13 point lead at quarter time. Melbourne came back in the second term and outscored the Lions three goals to two to come within seven points at half time. During the long break, about 80 Chinese kids came onto the ground to show off their own footy skills, recently learned at AFL clinics.
Brisbane cut loose in the third term, kicking five goals to two for a 26 point lead at the final break. Young Demon ruckman Jake Spencer kick-started the Demons' comeback with a great goal on the run from 50 meters out (55 yards). Melbourne youngster Jamie Bennell and veteran Colin Sylvia followed to bring the Demons within striking distance. Enter Jurrah with his heroics and freakish skills to seal the game for Melbourne. His match-winning grab and goal had the crowd on their feet.
While Jurrah was best on ground, other Demons to impress were defender Clint Bartram and Colin Sylvia. For Brisbane, Tom Rockliff starred up forward. Rookies Josh Dyson and Clay Beams will certainly remember their AFL debuts in this match as neither played any senior games during the 2010 season.
AFL development manager David Matthews said the attendance had exceeded expectations and said the match was a "... fantastic exhibition ...". Also in attendance was AFL Commission member Mike Fitzpatrick, who sat alongside Madam Wu, deputy mayor of a Shanghai district. She was involved in the negotiations to bring the game to China. She also attended the 2009 Grand Final in Australia and said she was impressed not only with that game but also the passion shown by Australians for sports. She believes the game would be an excellent platform to increase understanding between the Chinese and Australians.
With traditional Aussie footy staples such as meat pies and Victoria Bitters beer on sale, Fitzpatrick joked that it was "... just like a normal Saturday afternoon in Melbourne ...". The corporate marquees were a bit different with smoked salmon canapes, sausage rolls and Crown Lagers being passed around on silver trays.
The AFL already has a deal in place to broadcast one game per week live on Shanghai television starting next year. They say history is a great teacher and Fitzpatrick pointed out that the AFL did not take advantage of their penetration into the USA market in the 1980s and believes this recent success has potential.
Scoreboard Melbourne 1.4 4.7 6.9 12.12 (84) Brisbane 3.5 5.8 10.11 11.13 (79) Goals Melbourne Jurrah, 5, Morton 2, Sylvia 2, Bennell, Jamar, Spencer Brisbane Beams 3, Rockliff 3, Dyson 2, Buchanan, Harwood, Rich Best players Melbourne Jurrah, Bartram, Newton, Sylvia, Dunn Brisbane Rockliff, Dyson, Beams, Merrett, Rich Crowd: approx 7100
Article last changed on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 12:07 PM EDT