For the 3rd time this season we didn't need to motor up the M3 but just a short drive from our home in Epping (in Sydney's north) down to North Sydney Oval. It is just as well for the M3 was a nightmare - a major accident delaying the team bus into a four hour trip (a beer truck crashed - its a wonder the rowdies & flouros went past it :-)). The game started only 10 mins late in front of a large crowd containing perhaps 250 Breakers fans. Some friendly fraternisation between Breakers and Spirit fans occurred as familiar faces were spied, but once the game started the singing was in ernest. Being both Breakers and Spirit fans I and my family had a crisis of identity - I went (of course) wholly Breakers, my kids a bit mixed up, but we sat with a small group of Rowdies and Flouros and some other fans.
The Spirit came into the match with high hopes after their away win at the Sharks, despite three key suspensions in the defence, but suffered another blow on the Thursday when Ian Crook was injured. Breakers with 5 game without defeat in 6 were confident they could get something away in the intimidating Spirit den.
The game started at a tough pace with the Breakers showing real fatigue from their slow trip and a degree of nervousness. Spirit played perhaps their best spell all year and used all of the park, with Roberts on Casserly having a hard time and Sprod on Marusic really up against it. Marusic in particular cut through the defence repeatedly to set up his colleagues, only to have Pryce and McManus clear shakily. Pryce in particular looked pretty out of sorts with the trip and his niggling injury but was effective nonetheless. In wasn't all Spirit as Buonavaglia was giving his marker an equally hard time and Yoon started strongly. If anything it was the Breakers midfield that was buckling, with Wilson and Umlil shaky. For perhaps 35-40 mins Spirit applied pressure but the Breakers lads covered each time, then sudenly Spirit seemed to drop off and Newcastle seized the opportunity. Umlil hit one which went cm over from long range.
In the second half it was much different with Newcastle gradually getting into the game and even for the last 10 mins on top. Robbie Slater had been everywhere playing out from defence but Rob Shannon had a great time dueling with him as Breakers pushed out and launched counter-attacks. Buonavaglia continued in his fine overall play and had a number of shots but Yoon and Umlil's games fell right off and we lacked the fire power as usual. Haythornthwaite and Tancheski came on but played withdrawn, and Chris was very lucky to avoid a penalty when he brought down Langdon in extra time. One apparent Newcastle supporter kept the crowd amused as he took a beer shower from the Bob Stand and then after mooning the crowd was chased by a loony that every team seems to have. The rest of us kept a respectful distance.
We could have snatched a victory despite Spirit's early dominance, however a draw was a good & fair result for the determined Breakers - not so hot for the improving Spirit. For Spirit Clacka Zane had one good chance but was subbed late in the game and Spirit seem even worse off for fire power that Newcastle.
Spirit - Marusic, Slater, and Enes
Breakers - Shannon, Catlin, Buonavaglia