Delta Sports Centre- A year after VJC’s 3rd placed finish in the 2016 A Division Floorball tournament and the current batch of J2s starting to trend their own hashtag of #redemption17 or anything in its likeness, VJC took home their first title in 4 years with a 5-2 over arch rivals and traditional powerhouses Raffles Institution.
Raffles came into the game featuring an impressive squad that had the likes of national ice hockey player Tng Zong Wei (#88). Raffles had history on their side, having knocked out VJC in the semifinals of the tournament’s previous edition and were defending champions for the past 3 years. The history between these 2 great educational and sporting institutions did little to play down the fierce rivalry between the 2 sides. Gary had even dedicated an entire training session to prepare VJC for Raffles’ tactical setup. There was even a running joke in the Victorian camp that their reserves would pick fights with the Raffles star players to remove them from the game. But once again, history and talent on paper mattered for little in the cruel casino that is sport. After all, class is permanent.
Cephas Yeo (#4) closes down Tng Zong Wei of Raffles
The scoreline flattered to deceive the intensity of a match that saw tempers flare and displayed a certain physicality to the game. Rafflesian supporters turned up the volume even during the warmups. Passionate displays from the likes of Ng Jing Xiang ready to have a go at Raffles’ Jerome Boh (#24) after a brief tussle for the ball against the boards and Ryan Tham emphatically thump the school crest in celebration of his goal, only served to rile up both sets of fans and players.
The match started at a frenetic pace with both teams looking to make quick transitions up the field and break at speed. VJC stuck to their principles of movement, aggression and communication; or MAC for short. The legion of Victorians cheering excessively hampered the communication between members of Line 1. Nicolai Neo broke the deadlock 7 minutes into the game as he looping shot from the left arced over Raffles custodian Damien Wan (#16) before nestling in the back of the net. An error at the back following a miscued hit-in that hit Ryan Tham saw the ball fall gratefully into the path of a Rafflesian only for VJC to be bailed out by a good block from Cephas Yeo. Raffles nearly equalised when Ryan Loo’s poor clearance found Samuel Chia (#91), who could only find the woodwork.
The second period saw the game open up as the respective goalkeepers were put to work. Raffles opened the half brightly, with a shot that stung Afzal’s palms. On the other end of the court, VJC came close as Ammar failed to turn home Ryan Loo’s inswinger from close range. Moments later, Raffles won a free hit in VJC’s half. VJC’s inability to play out the ball from the back cost them as Raffles’ Ryan Tan (#68) rattled the crossbar. Lady luck smiled on VJC as the rebound led the ball upfield. A defensive error by Raffles meant the ball fell gratefully to Ryan Tham who simply could not miss as he swept the ball into the top corner.
Ammar Bagharib in action
Several misplaced passes and loose balls meant that each side had gifted opportunities of their own. VJC managed to box in the Rafflesians, limiting them to some hopeful shots from long range, one of which forcing a good save from Afzal down to his right. In the closing stages of the period, vice captain Wenjun promptly pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a screamer down the right hand side that would have made Andy Gray gush and leave Damien rooted to the spot. Raffles coach Jill Quek could be seen anxiously scrubbing her whiteboard and a timeout was soon called.
Following the restart, another poor clearance saw Wenjun capitalise with a brilliant half turn to beat his man before putting the ball into the roof of the net. However, Raffles were not to be daunted. A towering Chee Hao (#76) picked up the ball in the middle of the court, using his size to hold off the attentions of his marker. With his back to the goal, he spun to his right and finally beat the wall that was Afzal with a magnificent effort. Raffles smelt blood, taking only 11 seconds to add another. With the attentions of the backline focused on the ball carrier on the left, Ho Wei-En (#10) sneaked past the VJC defense, unmarked, to turn home a good cross at the far post. Raffles were revitalised and there were hopes of a miraculous comeback mirroring the likes of Munich and Istanbul.
In the final period of the game, skipper Dun Xian all but ended the Rafflesians’ hopes of a comeback with a deft finish. By then, the section of green and white had been shut up. As the minutes ticked away, VJC looked to run down the clock with some screening up against the boards. Raffles saw little of the ball but tried to make the most of their chances. Afzal grew even more into the game with some front footed goalkeeping, cutting out the final balls from the Raffles playmakers. The fallacy of Afzal’s front footedness nearly saw an anonymous Zong Wei put away his best effort of the game. With Afzal caught in no man’s land as he was second to the ball, Zong Wei looked to flick on Damien’s long throw after turning past his marker. Much to his dismay, his shot could beat Afzal but also beat the post. At the other end, Jun Wei nearly got on the scoresheet himself if not for his profligacy in front of goal after a quick break and good interplay from Wenjun and Dun Xian. As time ticked away, opportunities were also a rarity as VJC looked to hold onto possession and keep their seemingly unassailable lead.
After the post match trivialities of handshakes and high fives, our floorball boys could only revel in their triumph. Being so lost for words with the title winning campaign, that coach Gary could only muster a “Go ask the captain.”
When quizzed on the boy’s performances, Keith Chua said “The lads pressed high and pressed well. We knew we were up against a talented Raffles team with the potential to really hurt us so we looked to Afzal to relieve the pressure with his range of distribution. We were confident that our forwards would be able to win back the ball and catch Raffles when they were still disorganised.”
Quartermaster Ng Jing Xiang echoed the sentiments of captain Dun Xian lauding the spirited defensive display and tactical masterclass. “We came in not wanting to lose. We knew their game plan and focused on defensive organisation by proactively pressing high up the pitch, making sure they couldn’t settle into the game and bring up the ball. Our defenders kept Zong Wei in our back pocket.”
VJC’s custodian, Afzal has cleaned up well
An anonymous Rafflesian, though rather taken aback by the request for a quote, expressed his disappointment at his school’s capitulation.
Jun Wei, a member of Victoria’s floorball golden generation, talked up his second title in 2 years and third final in 3. “Winning is becoming a habit for us. Hopefully we don’t break this habit next year.”
Ryan Low, 17S62
Bryan Santa Ong, 17S49