The lyrics to ‘You’re the Voice’ echo out of the Outback change room before heading out to the field to face the next opponent in the Women’s World Championship, Mexico who have been a surprise entry into the competition – holding the reigning champions USA to a 29-0 in their first game, the USA scoreless for the first 21 minutes of the first half.
The energy finally feels familiar among the Outback, the girls are settled, confident and singing, dancing, getting into the zone is key. But also running through their ears, songs from home, cheers from parents and supporters and this feels like it could be it. The first win for Australia in the series, and a win that would put them into bronze medal contention.
The first quarter was hard fought with the passing game getting the better of the Outback secondary resulting in a Mexico TD. But it was still anyone’s game.
Kristy Moran again took the field in at QB for the Outback, running the wildcat formation against the hard hitting Mexican defence. In the press conference, Mexico understood that the Outback personnel outweighed them in both stature and in power and had studied scout footage intensively to counter the heavy ‘Michigan’ set by the Outback which held strong while the offence was settling into QB #14 Casey Cubis being on the field and linking up with receivers for the passing game.
The Outback defence stood strong and the DL was again one of the strongest performing personnel groups on the field, #93 Jasmin Collins scored the game MVP with a huge sack in the backfield, scoring a safety for Team Australia and putting them on the board 7-2 at the half.
The girls returned at the half, still confident, still ready to go and as #6 RB Kristy Moran broke free for a 42yd run off the outside of the ‘Michigan’ formation resulting in a TD. The sideline, supporters and fans at home erupted, hoping this was the start of a rolling offensive unit.
QB #14 Casey Cubis followed up Moran’s triumphant run with a solid 2pt conversion to WR #89 Mel Kelly in the endzone, putting the Outback on the board again bringing the score to 10-13 chasing a unwavering Mexico unit.
#4 Illiana Mulraney a rookie from South Australia took advantage of the Mexican QB, earning her first career interception, giving the Outback defence more fire early in the 3rd quarter.
Injuries started to take its toll on each side, Australia losing #54 OL Jess Johnson to an ankle injury and LB #63 Kristie Bridge with a facemask penalty resulting in a helmet to the chest ruling her out for the rest of the game. The Mexican offence continued to utilise the long passing game to get the best of the Outback secondary, using play action and their speed on the outside to eventually take the game at 31-10 at the final whistle.
Overall, the Outback felt the fire and haven’t been closer to a win and Welter expresses at the press conference “there isnt a game we have played so far where I didn’t feel as a coach that we couldn’t have won”. The score doesn’t reflect at all the game that was played on the field, and the stats of the QB’s #14 Cubis and #7 Evans aren’t at all reflective of their ability to continue to lead this offence.
Cubis has one of the strongest arms in this competition, and is also consistently accurate. She needs to air out her arm early, and settle into a rhythm with her receivers in order to execute the no huddle offence of Coach Konecki that has won many championships for his team’s Chicago Force and the 2010 and 2013 Team USA.
One of the critical factors of football is momentum, and unfortunately due to numerous penalty flags, incorrect down markers and injuries stalled the momentum the Outback had on offence leading into the second half, the officiating was definitely a talking point among the fans, coaches and players.
Head Coach Jen Welter was questioned at the press conference around the amount of flags and penalties that had been thrown during the game and mentioned “as the players develop and learn more, the game will become safer.”
Welter also spoke about the importance of taking the experience of the Outback program back to clubs to continue to develop players for future Outback selection; “I truly hope that the ladies who have experienced this (the WWC) will be the ones to carry the torch and fuel the fire of the clubs there (in Australia) – as coaches from the US, we see the potential and …we see flashes of brilliance”
Team Australia will take on Finland on the 30th for a 5th place finish in the 2017 Women’s World Cup tournament. Game details posted soon!
Written by: Stacey Speer
Photographs by: Elissa Manera