In September 1997 an end of year footy tournament was held one Saturday in Cincinnati Ohio with five teams from around the USA, Los Angeles, Nashville, St Louis, a combined team from Kansas City/Louisville, the hosts Cincinnati of course and one team from Toronto, the Broadview Hawks. Prior to that day in ‘97 there had been over a dozen games of Aussie Rules Footy played across the USA, even some in 1996. These games mostly were held in the Midwest, but teams of interested players had started to spring up across the country. The Cincinnati Dockers team went on to win that day on their home turf, what was later in the night when you read on, decided to be the inaugural USA Australian Rules Football National Championship.
As has become a great tradition in the present era of the USAFL National Championships, a social event was always in order after playing all day or all weekend. In 1997 players and supporters had to drive a 40+ mile trip across the state line into Indiana to attend, what was unknown at the time, to become a historic night in the annuals of Australian Rules Football.
Held in a far away country barn with dead animals on the walls and a horse shoe throwing pit out front and a bonfire, a meeting of footy mates was held. Though it was late in the evening, out the back of the barn from the rowdy crowd, players and organizers of footy clubs participating that day held the infamous, "The Meeting Behind the Barn".
That meeting lit by one overhead light and with a group of about ten to twelve footy lovers from around the country, became the birth of the USAFL as we know it today. On the recent ‘Outside 50’ podcast ‘The Meeting Behind the Barn’ (published on this page), we hear the stories of three attendees of that very meeting nearly 24 years ago. Paul 'Plugger' O'Keefe, Rich Mann and Mike Powers were there, not so fresh maybe from a long Saturday of footy, but energetic enough to gather a group together to talk about the future of footy in the USA. On the podcast they recount some of the events leading up to that weekend and night, and much of the history they made soon after, helping grow the game of Aussie Rules Football across the USA to what it has become today.
The founding member teams of the USAFA as it was formed that night in Indiana according to what we have been able to discover were, Washington D.C., Indianapolis, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, St Louis and Kansas City.
From just over those dozen games in 1997, the games total grew to over a hundred in just a few years, thanks mostly to these three footy lovers, these eight clubs and many other club founders around the USA. And the event held at the end of the year, named on that 1997 night and won by that Cincinnati Dockers team, was from that day on called the USA Aussie Rules National Championships. The USAFL Nationals as it is known now, has now possibly grown to become the biggest Australian Rules Football event in the world, with close to 2000 men and women players playing on six fields from 9am on Saturday to 6.00pm on Sunday, normally held over the second weekend of October.
Paul, Rich and Mikey, chatted to us about the characters they remember and the lifelong friendships they have made from footy throughout the years. The leaders that have moved on, retired and unfortunately passed away. These three legends that helped make the USAFL what it is today with their early day champions of the game, we are pleased to say are still going strong and still playing amazingly. Well, at least at the National Championships each year they are anyway. ;)
From the vision of Paul O'Keefe and the support of Rich Mann and Mike Powers plus the others at that meeting and the many club leaders that followed soon after, we should applaud them all often, pay respect and due acknowledgment, as without them many of us would not be enjoying footy as we know it in the USA today.
'The Meeting Behind the Barn' is a historic story of Australian Rules Football growth, passion and the pure love of the game, and we hope this tale of ‘The Meeting Behind the Barn’ will live for as long as the game is played.
Ref: The Story of USfooty: Lexington, Mass: Lexington Press, c2003 - John Doc Cheffers with Greg Narleski
On the recent 'Outside 50' podcast with Tom Ellis the USA Revolution Head Coach, we learnt things are changing up in a big way for the USA Revolution and the International Cup in Queensland Australia beginning in late July. With the increased opportunities for US players to play in Australia, Tom and his fellow coaches have quite the dilemma on their hands trying to select the best team for the 2020 IC.
"It is a great thing to have happen really for the team" Tom said. With nearly a dozen USA players now playing in Australia, mostly in the Melbourne suburban leagues, its making the selection process to make the USA Revolution team more complicated but more exciting at the same time.
Tom first played with the Denver Bulldogs in 1999 and has been a part of the Bulldogs legendary eight Div 1 championship wins, the last being in 2011. Tom has also been a player himself in two International Cups and this year will be his second time visiting Australia as Head Coach of the USA Revolution.
With a Revolution camp coming up in late February in Houston Texas and a separate tour planned to Croatia this year, headed up by Kyle Strenski, the USA men's team development is certainly going ahead full steam. There are still player spots up for grabs too with the final team of 28 and 2 emergencies to be named after the late February camp in Houston. From then on it is fundraising and ensuring players are prepared physically and mentally for the two week tour on the Sunshine Coast of southern Queensland. A stark contrast from every previous IC which have been held in Melbourne and notably under wintry conditions.
There is no opportunity to play on the MCG this year, but the final of the International Cup will be curtain raisers and curtain closer at a Brisbane Lions v North Melbourne Kangaroos game at the GABBA on August 8th
You can follow along with the Revolution team in the lead up to the IC on their Facebook page here.
As the 2020 International Cup in Queensland, Australia looms on the horizon in late July, this year the women's USA Freedom team Head Coach, Christina Licata's unfinished story is remarkable already. From the humble beginnings of finding the sport whilst attending her last year of College at Arizona State University, to establishing the first women's team in New York, to being the only Level 2 AFL coach in the USA, to now leading the USA team herself into battle at the 2020 IC. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and passion for Aussie Rules Football.
Christina originally played with one of the only three women's teams at the time in the USA the Arizona Hawks and attended the first National Championships for women in the USA, which was played in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 2005. Though the Hawks were not successful that weekend that taste of competitive contact sport was enough to fuel a passion for Aussie Rules Football that is still as evident today as it was 16 years ago. Unfortunately Christina suffered from two ACL knee injuries, the second in 2013 after moving to New York in 2008. Christina hung up her playing boots after the second one, but that did not stop her from continuing on in the sport she now loves, helping establish and later becoming the Head Coach of the New York Magpies women's team. With the help of her best friend to this day she met in college in Arizona, Andrea Murphillas (Casillas), they have been pioneers of women's footy in New York and across the USA.
With a drive beyond all in the USA so far, Christina became the only USA Level 2 AFL coach in the country, either men's or women's. It was inevitable perhaps or destiny maybe that she would be appointed in 2018 as the USA Freedom Head Coach and lead the team to Australia on tour. It is not a place unfamiliar to Christina being a part of the very first tour to Australia in 2009, at a time well before International women's AFL football was a thing.
For our soon to be released episode of Outside 50 podcast show, Christina mentions some of the people that have helped and guided her along the way. New York men's coach Rob Oliver especially and another notable was Chyloe Kurdas who made a significant contribution to the organization and therefore success of the 2009 Freedom tour but also to women's sport in general when working for AFL Victoria. Chyloe was also an attendee at USAFL National Championships and ran clinics in New York and other places around the USA, as a true leader of international women's footy development she remains a great friend of Christina's and many USA women players around the country, to this day.
Also in our interview, Christina elaborated on the plans this year for the final Freedom camp weekend to be held in Sacramento, taking place from May 28th to the 31st. There the 28 selected players and 6 emergencies will undergo testing, advanced coaching seminars and certainly full scale match practice sessions, prepping them all for not only the 2020 IC tour, but the future of the sport in the USA.
As Head Coach of USA, Christina was clear that the goal at the 2020 International Cup was, "Win it all", but still pleased to say like maybe a typical well educated coach, "we will take it one game at a time, when the time comes."
There is no doubt regardless of the results on the Sunshine Coast later this year, women's USA footy at the highest level is in good hands, through Christina Licata's, vision, drive and passion for the sport there is no looking back, only forward.
We are proud to know her and to have seen part of her unfinished story.
As we all start to brush off the New Years cob webs we thought we would let you know, in case you are still trying to get those Bluetooth headphones to work you got for Christmas, that USA footy in 2020 is going to be huge. Huge, I tell ya.!!
Let us kick off with the three Regional Championship events. June 13th in Arlington Texas, June 27th in Cincinnati Ohio and July 11th in Westminster Colorado. I know what you are thinking. Are those Central, Eastern and Western Regional’s not all in the same Central region in how the USAFL groups teams? You are right they are, and I thought the same thing.
So lets try and explain. The USAFL from what we can tell consider the regions ‘flexible’. With the Western regional’s this year just outside Denver, the Bulldogs who would normally play in the Central regional’s and in fact hosted the Central regional’s in 2019. This year they will play in the Western regional’s and the Denver team have hosted the Western regional’s before in 2017 though.
Cincinnati hosting Eastern regional’s is somewhat similar. Normally a Central region team they will obviously play in the Eastern regional’s this year, whilst teams like Chicago a little Nth West of them and Nashville slightly Sth East, will have to make the trip all the way over to Texas for the Central regional’s.
As is seems to have been explained before the USAFL have now taken full control of the three regional events, including all logistics which includes field hire, officials, umpires and importantly hotel accommodation. The events are put out for bids by cities around the USA that want to host the events and have the necessary field requirements and facilities. This obviously narrows the field somewhat and with the notion that the USAFL probably also wants to move the event around to different cities each year, the selection available this year must have been thinner than normal we can only surmise.
So are you thinking we might as well throw out the window the Regional model of the USAFL and come up with something else? Well not so fast, the league must elect three Vice Presidents to ‘manage’ those current regions per their constitution and the election of officers. But perhaps we are getting to a stage for some change. (Incidentally last year USFootyNews separated the USAFL teams into 6 regions as you might have seen, as we thought it just made more sense from a reporting standpoint)
The USAFL National Championships on October 10th-11th go back to California for the second time in three years however it is not on the coast like the picturesque San Diego destination was in 2017, it is eastward inland, at Silverlakes Sports Park in Ontario. If one is using LAX as the inbound flight destination to California it can take from 1 hour to 2 hours plus, to drive to Ontario from LAX, depending on the pretty extreme LA traffic. There is an airport in Ontario, however it has much fewer flights. Players could be advised to book early if going direct. There you go, you heard it here first.
The 2020 USAFL Nationals will be massive though. The San Diego 2017 Nationals were the biggest on record and with the vibrant growth of footy down the west coast it is expected that Ontario will match that at least. In 2017 in San Diego, 53 teams represented 40 clubs on 6 fields and over 80…yes 80, 2x20 min half games were played. That’s a lot of games, it’s a lot of everything.
It has been discussed that Regional events can help form the seeds of divisions for the National Championships. But in essence we believe this is only relevant for Division 1 teams pretty much. The results of previous years Nationals continues to be the best guide to the coming years Nationals in our opinion, with a few minor exceptions. As well teams get 'options' on which division they can play, based often on how many players they have making the trip.
There are other events going on too in 2020. The International Cup in Australia in late July early August where the USA Revolution and Freedom teams will match it with teams from around the world, like they do every three years. This year the event is up on the Sunshine coast of Queensland, surely to be nicer weather, but not as prestigious as getting the chance to play on the MCG.
The finals however will be played as curtain raiser and curtain closer games (that’s new) to the Brisbane Lions v West Coast Eagles at the Gabba on August 8th. USFootyNews might get out there for this great event ourselves.
Another event worth of mention is the Rob Dollar Cup supporting the Rob Dollar Foundation https://www.robdollarfoundation.org
Held late March on the 28th, this event in 2019 attracted a handful teams to the sunny 70f weather of Phoenix AZ, but all reports it was a huge success and likely to grow even further each year.
There is also a new Invitational 12s tournament in Spring down in Savannah Georgia. This event was held last year organized by the Atlanta Kookaburras and new teams the Savannah Hurricane and Jacksonville Saints with players from the new Tampa Bay Sharks also attended. This year all teams are invited including women's teams.
And finally along with all that there are home and way events littered all throughout the year and mini (often three way) game day events which are now very popular all over the place. Tampa have already started practices and have a mini game with Ft Lauderdale on February 8th in Ft Myers FL, and other teams are either starting practice in February or running some social games at least.
Anyway, we hope to see you out there in 2020, its gonna be a huge year…!!!
The USAFL Freedoms tilt at the 2020 International Cup in Melbourne Australia goes into full swing this week with a 4 day camp in Racine Wisconsin.
Earlier in the year at an Arizona camp with 75 players in attendance the USA Freedom selection panel lead by head coach Christina Licata, selected 54 players from 125 available to remain in IC2020 tour contention. In Racine this week from Thursday 14th through to Sunday 18th, over 40 of those players will be striving for selection in the 28 player squad to head to Australia in 2020. That squad may also include players currently playing outside the USA with ten squad players playing overseas in 2019, mainly in Australia, but also in Ireland.
This week USFootyNews heard from Coach Licata who related "While selection for the squad that will ultimately compete at the International Cup in 2020 won't occur until the Nationals Championships in Sarasota, performance at the 4-day camp will factor heavily into the coaching team's decisions."
Licata with all the assistant coaches this weekend will put all the players to the test, the 4-day camp will feature;
Skills and fitness assessments
Full sided games
Small sided games
Team goal setting and self assessments
At the 2017 IC the USA Freedom did not live up to their own expectations after several set backs through injuries and finished with a 2-3 record. Leading Great Britain in the last game at 3/4 time, the Freedom team saw that game slip away in the final minutes to finish a disappointing 2017 campaign in 4th place.
For 2020 however we see a far greater preparation through well attended and stronger Regional Championship games, Freedom camps and initial squad selections allowing a far greater pool of players prepare for selection. Also with several players having valuable match and training experience in Australia since 2017, all other teams better watch out in 2020.
That Freedom roster will be announced at the 2019 National Championships in Sarasota FL however we are sure there are 40 or so women footy players getting ready for a massive 4 days in Racine Wisconsin this week.
Recently the USAFL released their Australian Football Development Handbook. The handbook is primarily the work of Katie Klatt who developed the handbook as a project of the USAFL Development Committee's Safety Group. Katie was the Vice Captain of the USAFL Freedom at the International Cup in 2017.
"I thought this handbook could just be a good resource for those little specifics of footy we all take for granted, but are actually not as straight-forward as we see it!" Katie told USFootyNews this week.
The 25 page handbook covers many areas of player development with sections on learning skills, playing the game and safety, just to name a few. There are excellent reference links to videos, documents and other important resources contained in the handbook. Everything is covered that a new or recent player to the game of Aussie Rules Football would need to improve their footy and become a more knowledgeable and better skilled player.
You can download the Handbook here. USAFL Development Handbook
Katie Klatt herself is a much traveled footy player having just spent three years playing Aussie Rules in Melbourne Australia and now is back in San Francisco playing for the Golden Gate Iron Maidens.
Originally a player for the Sacramento Suns, Katie went down to Melbourne and played VFLW with the Melbourne Uni Mugars for three seasons. The Mugars are one of the strongest and most successful women's teams in Melbourne. There was some adjustment and hard work needed in Melbourne, Katie told USFootyNews.
"I had to work my way from their Div 3 team to the Reserves, then to VFLW each season as I got more experience."
"It was quite different playing in Australia. The knowledge of the game is significantly higher, and the skills much more silky and natural. The hits are harder and the speed is so much faster. It was definitely an adjustment." Katie went on to say.
We asked Katie what did she think was different now back in USA footy after 3 years away?
"I'm really excited by the growth I've seen in the US women's football scene since I've been gone, and the fact that so many women are starting to be interested in playing in Australia. And with so many new players coming out the Handbook was developed as I was hoping to encourage people to learn to tackle and play safely. We want this spread out to as many people as possible."
Finally, the travels may not over for Katie. Katie told USFootyNews she will be on the move again after this year's national championships in Sarasota Florida.
Where will Katie play in 2020? That might be a story to be covered at another time, for sure she will be a huge part of the USA Freedom's IC2020 campaign. For now thought Katie is officially a Golden Gate Iron Maiden! Congratulations Katie on your contribution to USA footy from USFootyNews and all your footy family.
It was a clear, warm day in Westminster, Colorado earlier this month as the USAFL's Central Regionals Championship rolled into town. The usual suspects -- the Austin Crows -- took home the goods at this year's Centrals, but the rest of the day was filled with some exciting games and surprising finishes.
The action started at 9 AM, with two D2 matches played concurrently. The hosting Denver Bulldogs' reserves squad overcome an inaccurate day in front of goal (4.11.35) to start off with a nice win over the Oklahoma Footy Club, while the Nashville Kangaroos scored an upset win over D2 stalwart Chicago.
Up next at 10 AM, the Bulldogs' D1 side, led by Lachie Fleet and Anthony Grippa, took on the Minnesota Freeze, who were coming off a nice showing at the 80/35 Tournament in Des Moines back in June. But the Doggies were too strong and used their home ground to their advantage, winning by a score of 12.9.81 to 3.5.23 to start Centrals off on a high note. Unfortunately for Denver, their run would end at the hands of the Crows, who methodically sent the Dogs packing, 8.8.56 to 3.2.20.
The newly-rebranded Dallas Dingoes (formerly the Magpies) started their day off at 11:30, combining with several Ohio Valley players for Centrals. The Dingoes started off hot, taking down Oklahoma by six goals. On the adjacent oval, the Roos of Nashville slugged it out in a defensive battle with the Houston Lonestars, with the former taking out the latter by only four points.
After the kids' clinic at noon, Centrals resumed at 1 PM with a comprehensive thrashing of Minnesota at the hands of Austin. The Crows were just too good and too fast for the Freeze, winning in a shutout. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs continued their strong form with a hard-fought win over the Dingoes, 7.2.44 to 2.2.14.
As the afternoon crawled on and the weather began to turn, the Chicago Swans squeezed out another victory, defeating the Dingoes on the back of a strong defensive performance. In the final for D2 Pool A, the Lonestars battled Oklahoma in yet another close finish, taking home a 1-2 record for the tourney.
Concurrently, the Doggies' reserves battled it out with the Roos in what turned out to be an old-school chess match of a D2 title. Ultimately, the Kangas were within striking distance every step of the way, but Denver escaped with a 3.1.19 to 2.2.14 victory.
As for the women's tourney, it was a small, but quality, sample of what we can expect at Nationals. There's plenty of rising talent in the women's game, as exemplified by the creation of a North/South rivalry specifically for Centrals. In addition to the hosting Lady Bulldogs, the North/South contingency had women from Texas, Nashville, Chicago, Minnesota and others. The teams had a round-robin style tourney, with games scattered throughout the day, in addition to a women's clinic in the morning.
While the Lady Bulldogs opened the day with a win over South, overall, they had a tough time. Both North and South were hungry to upset the Doggies on their home turf, and they responded with two impressive wins apiece before the day was over. The South was largely composed of members of the Texas Heat, who have been looking stronger at each tournament they've attended since their debut last season.
Austin Crows - D1 Men's Champions
Denver Bulldogs reserves - D2 Men's Champions
North (Minnesota Freeze/Chicago Swans/Des Moines Roosters/Ohio Valley River Rats) - Women's Champions
Austin Crows - 3-0
Denver Bulldogs - 1-1
Minnesota Freeze - 1-2
D2 Ladder (Pool A)
Chicago Swans/Wisconsin Wombats - 2-1
Nashville Kangaroos/Wisconsin Wombats/Arizona Hawks - 1-2
Houston Lonestars - 1-2
D2 Ladder (Pool B)
Denver Bulldogs - 3-0
Dallas Dingoes/Ohio Valley River Rats - 1-2
Oklahoma FC - 0-3
North (Minnesota Freeze/Chicago Swans/Des Moines Roosters/Ohio Valley River Rats) - 3-0
Denver Lady Bulldogs (Red) - 1-1
South (Texas Heat/Nashville Kangaroos) - 1-2
Denver Lady Bulldogs (Blue) - 0-2