Navy takes the win in AFL curtain-raiser

Published on LEUT Todd Austin (author), ABIS Chris Beerens (photographer)

Location(s): Perth, Western Australia

Leading Seaman Jarrad Walter gets a handball off before being tackled by an Air Force player during the HMAS Sydney II Memorial curtain raiser held at Domain Stadium, Subiaco. (photo: ABIS Chris Beerens)
Leading Seaman Jarrad Walter gets a handball off before being tackled by an Air Force player during the HMAS Sydney II Memorial curtain raiser held at Domain Stadium, Subiaco.

For the fourth time in as many years, Western Australia-based Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force personnel have played in a curtain-raiser game for the AFL's HMAS Sydney II Memorial game.

The annual game between the West Coast Eagles and Sydney Swans commemorates the tragic loss of life that occurred when HMAS Sydney II was sunk off the Western Australian Coast in 1941 and was played this year on 26 July.

While the Defence game was played, Royal Australian Navy volunteers became Legacy 'tin shakers' to raise much needed funds for Legacy. In total, $11,395 was raised this year.

The game was played in very good spirits and the first five minutes were fast and furious. However, as the Navy players became comfortable in their roles and responsibilities things started to happen.

Petty Officer Physical Alex Leahy said that it was very tight early on in the first quarter and the game was in the balance.

“We missed a lot of chances early and could have been in trouble,” Petty Officer Leahy said.

“Then the radar locked on and we were able to kick clear and that is how it remained for most of the day.”

Good pressure inside the Navy forward fifty gave the Navy side second and third shots on goal and once they started putting the shots through the middle, they never looked like being caught.

While the score board showed complete domination to the Navy, 16.17 (113) to 2.1 (13), the Air Force side never threw in the towel and played the game right to the final siren. Every contest was fought hard, with no player giving an inch to the opposition.

“Credit must be given to the Air Force team; they played as hard as they could from start to finish without being influenced by the score board,” Petty Officer Leahy said.

Navy’s best player was Able Seaman Clearance Diver Mathew Kennewell, who was all over the ground on the day providing great leadership and maximum pressure to those on or around the ball and found the goals twice.   

Whilst Sub Lieutenant Ryan Aberle was a rock across the back line with exceptional vision in being able to rebound the ball out of defence and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Jarrad Walter whose experience and skill saw him dominate the forward fifty and kick six goals.

 “A big event like this has a lot of behind the scenes support and myself and the team really did appreciate the effort of all the volunteers,” Petty Officer Leahy said.

The West Coast Eagles have already extended their invite to 2016, and Navy will be looking at taking the title again.