Derby, the most central city in the UK. When you think about, so many things come to mind, such as home of the Rolls Royce Headquarters, its vast array of gorgeous Cathedrals and mighty bridges. As well as house hold names such as astronomer John Flamsteed, extraordinary actor Kieran Lee and PDC dart player Mark Robinson. But from the 07/09/19, you can add one more thing to that list, Manchester Chargers.
Finals footy effects people in many different ways, some react by stepping up to the challenge, others succumb to the pressure. With information received that Chargers only need to top their pool to win the competition, Captain Jordan Crosse could have been mistaken for the latter. He had arrived at 7am to prepare for a 10:55am tap off, he was ready to lead. His dehydrated face, due to having a drinking problem, looked upon his team mates, trying to make out if his team was up for it. A small awkward smile started to spread across his face as he saw Paul Ashton rock up with his takeaway coffee, Sammy Kiernan no longer complaining she was hungry due to sleeping in and missing breakfast, Courtney Horrocks carrying a speaker playing some ‘doof doof’ music in one hand and a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in the other. The smile Jordan was giving confirmed, Manchester Chargers were ready. He then took his first sip of water since being announced as captain.
Manchester Chargers were missing ‘score 10ms out’ Rob Crawford, talisman Gregg Cropper and DNTS captain, James Simons. But with the likes of regulars Adam Mather, Becky Ashton, Bruce Bailey, Lauren Hillson, Nubli Mustafa being backed up by Sammy Kiernan and Courtney Horrocks (back for their second DTS comp), Pete Bowyer and AJ Chadwick (first DTS comp of the year) and Paul Ashton (back after his 2 year touch exodus), as well as James filling in with his new role as Coach, Chargers still had a strong squad.
First game of the day was against Percy Park. The team who was pencilled as the must win to top the group. The team was in a positive mind set, Jordan had won the toss so tap off was theirs to unleash the tap-off move. Paul Ashton, who was ready to stamp his mark back into the sport of touch, strutted onto the pitch boasting to Pete and Jordan he knew the tap off move. Hooter sounds, Paul goes the wrong way. The game started in typical Chargers’ fashion, slow. It wasn’t until Pete Bowyer scored with an unnecessary dive did Chargers finally find their feet. Scores followed by Bruce, who ran hard from a drive to score a half-length’er , Pete with a quickie, Paul hitting the perfect hole, Jordan finally scoring on his 4th attempt and Courtney, who made the most audacious catch possible, catching the ball that was passed to her feet by AJ. People could have mistaken she was in the heaving position due to her antics from the night before, but nether-the-less, she scored in the corner on the hooter. The game ended 6-1 to Chargers.
Game two was against Nottingham, who had very handy players right across the park. Before the game, the signs did not look good. The warm up was more like a cool breeze, which sent Jordan Crosse into Captain mode. The result of this certainly woke the team up, with some overheard saying “I’ve never seen him like that before”, “I kinda like it”, “I’ll stand up in a minute, you go ahead”. Captain mode from The JC certainly worked, with the game starting well. So well in fact, history was made. Bruce was on another mazy run and beating multiple defenders with ease, Lauren was following his run from the wing, with Bruce playing heads up Touch, he saw Lauren was in the perfect position to receive a pass.
Bruce passed, time stood still as the ball traveled to Lol’s hands, which were fingers up, perfect catching technique. Lol caught it, time still stood still as she ran to the score line, then everyone realised time didn’t stand still, we were actually watching Lol sprint. She soared passed her opposite wing to score, HER FIRST COMPETITION SCORE FOR CHARGERS! The crowd erupted, the cheers and shouts were deafening, calls of “That’s my f**ken girlfriend!” echoed throughout stadium, Lol held the ball up in the ear with the look of satisfaction she’s never felt before…… Nottingham then proceeded to score two themselves to go ahead.
With the team experiencing such a high, naturally comes a low. With topping the pool slowly leaving our grasp, Chargers needed a lift, Cometh the hour, cometh the Kiernan. With Sammy making multiple TD stopping touches on the score line, enough to make Nottingham biased against redheads, this allowed Chargers to ramp up the attack by allowing Pete to scoop through and look for a free player. He eventually found AJ once he had stopped yelling “Score it!! Put the ball down!!!” to realise Pete was half, so Golem used Rock Slide which was super effective and got passed his mirroring defender to score. Becky to score on the other wing and Bruce to again run through the defence for an easy score. Game ended 4-2.
With the final pool game against Norwich to determine whether we top the pool or not, it was time for Captain JC to get Chargers switched on. During the warm up, again Jordan gave more inspiring words, particularly to Nubli. The words exchanged, you would easily find in the notebooks of Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr. The match started perfectly with Becky scoring off the tap off, AJ scoring next, Pete scoring as soon as he subbed on from 60m out, Becky scoring another, Tom saying ‘anything you can do I can do slightly less impressive’ by scoring as soon as he subbed on from 50m out, Tom then scoring his second in the match. The game finished by Becky showing she is more likely to score on the pitch, rather than off, by going over the score line for her hat-trick. The game ended 7-1.
With Manchester Chargers fully aware that they are now champions, a short celebration was heard in their huddle, but they still had a job to do and that was to finish the tournament. Their cup quarter final opponent was announced as CSSC Eagles, a team that was never going to easy. With Chargers finally nailing the warm up on their fourth attempt, the squad entered the game on a positive. This was helped by Pete scoring off the tap off, followed by Tom scoring by just using his shear pace and lack of body mass. The next score was a great team effort, Jordan, using his initiative and knowing it was last touch, yelled “Kill the touch!” then gave the ball to Sammy, who gave to Lol. Jordan repeated his request of the touch being killed multiple times, this gave the opposition a false sense of security. Lol and Sammy then realised that Jordan had his fingers crossed the whole time so they gave the ball back to Jordan who strolled past the sleeping defence to score. The last score of the game came from Pete who took advantage of an offside player, to then step the link, off his weak foot, and run 30m down the sideline. While being chased by the CSSC player, Pete’s only option was to dive for the line. The necessary dive allowed him to avoid the chasing CSSC player, who missed him by centimetres. Game ended 4-1. Chargers into the semi-final.
The semi-final was against our good frienemies, Yorkshire Thorns. A game that everyone is up for, as neither wants to lose to the other due to boasting rights being up for grabs, as well as the Cup final spot. The game started well with Adam sneaking through to score the first. Thorns responded with two of their own. Chargers then relied on Sammy and Pete’s tactical on-field domestic to distract Thorns, which worked by having Bruce sneak through the defence to score. But in the end, Thorns showed the class by scoring one more before fulltime. The game ended in 3-2. After the match, hugs were given and bro handshakes all round.
Manchester Chargers ended their successful DNTS year with a well-deserved night out in Derby. The night was spend reflecting on the success Chargers have had on-field, and the successful recruitment and friendships made off the field.
Manchester Chargers. England Touch Development Touch Series Champions 2019.
Roll of Honour
The less said about this, the better!
Thanks also to Pam and Nogs, our two fantastic refs for the final round. Congrats to Nogs on her badge upgrade too!