Atlantic Cup - Tomahawks pass first test!
I can't tell you how proud I am of our team in winning the opening match of the Atlantic Cup against Jamaica. It isn't just the result and the fact that we won the game, but more so the commitment and dedication of this young group lead by team captain, Apple Pope. From the moment we assembled in Jacksonville it has been evident that these guys have a desire to be the best players they can be, and have a passion for representing their country that is a privilege to be associated with. We overcame a number of significant challenges in beating Jamaica on Tuesday. Not all of which involved the opposition. Whilst we didn't want to make it public, we went into camp losing four top players from our squad through injury and work commitments; Siose Muliumu, Keiki Misipeka, Akarika Dawn, and Kevin Wiggins all pulled out in the week leading up to the tournament. Whilst we could have used this an excuse going into the Jamaican International we used it as a motivator. Rather then call in other players, we decided as a group that we should work with the players we have available and do our best to prepare and set a plan in place to compete with a really strong opposition in game one. From the first team meeting it was obvious that the coaching staff had a group with a clear focus on what we needed to do in the short term to get a plan in place. We knew we had some clever ball players, some strong guys up front who could lay a platform, and good speed out wide. The trick now was massaging all these elements into a manageable game plan that we could implement, then execute. All in four or five practice sessions! We knew we would experience several challenges in the Jamaican match. They had a number of pros in from the UK, so being able to contain them was always going to be difficult. So we decided to work hard on the areas we were strong in, and not focus too much on what they would do but respond as best we could and set a goal of trying to be in the game at or around the 60 minute mark. Fortunately for us we got off to a good start, played some good footy and scored points either side of halftime and as fate would have it we were in the game right around the third quarter mark. In hindsight it might seemed like we developed a good game plan, but the truth is no strategy can be successful unless you have the players who want to make it work. I'm fortunate as a coach, and the AMNRL is fortunate as a group that we have a USA Tomahawks team competing in the Atlantic Cup who want to be successful, improve as individual players, and move our program forward on the international stage. The immediate challenge after the victory over Jamaica was to see how our guys would respond in practice and whether or not we would remain focused on being successful not for just one game but the whole Atlantic Cup tournament. It didn't take long for myself and our coaching staff of Marcus Vassilakopoulos, and Rob Balachandran to find out. At 1030pm on Tuesday night after beating Jamaica, you would expect that the team may have gone out for a few celebratory drinks. Instead, outside the window of my hotel room, we noticed a bunch of guys standing in waist deep freezing cold water in the hotel swimming pool rehabbing sore muscles and recovering for the next challenge. Now that's impressive! I am certain we will give a good account for ourselves on Saturday against Canada. See you at the game or watch us live online right here at this website. Go Tomahawks!