In recent times we have seen the reemergence of footy teams in Florida. Last year the Jacksonville Saints were fully established and this year they brought several players to the USAFL Eastern Regionals to play with eventual Division 2 winners, the Boston Demons. The new Saints team also played with the Atlanta Kookaburras and Rome Redbacks in an exhibition game in Savannah Georgia in late June as those teams assist with team development in Georgia.
Apart from that activity we wrote recently about maybe the darkness footy has been in recently in Florida. So we reached out to a few leaders of the new Tampa Bay Tiger Sharks club to get their side of things.
Tampa Bay Tiger Sharks have affiliated recently with the USAFL after the implosion of the Major League Footy organization. An organization we were informed that was being run basically by just one person. Several players in the Tampa area were becoming disillusioned with the MLF set up, as it was to them just scrimmage games with no real competition. Players would come down, pull on a different uniform each week however the results would be posted on the league website for whatever team colors they represented as legitimate games. “There were games versus Ft Lauderdale as well but they were not very well organized”, new club leader Robbie Scarallo said recently.
Born in Dubbo Australia, Robbie Scarallo and others like former Columbus Cats players Tom Mathews and Claire Conley recently formed a provisional committee to restart footy in the Tampa region. After the press release of the USAFL recently and the design of their new logo coming with that news, Scarallo said “I am confident a brand new “voted in” board of management would be in place by the end of July. Currently we have ‘around' 20 players we hope to get out onto the practice field from the past MLF group, however early numbers are much lower than that.”
Other plans have also been discussed about also splitting into to local metro teams quickly so the club can immediately play competitive games without having to travel far. Tampa although a very large city the Tiger Sharks are still a long way away from any other USAFL club. Ft Lauderdale is 4 hour drive away on a good day and Jacksonville is 3.5 hours as well, so establishing rival teams inside their own city is probably a must do.
With the USAFL National Championships just a 1 hour drive south to Sarasota this October the Tampa Bay leaders are confident they will have enough players and enthusiasm to again have a team playing in the biggest footy event outside of Australia.
Probably the next point of interest will be to see if Ft Lauderdale can also regroup and fully return to the footy fold and if any other clubs can be started in Florida, especially one maybe in the central Florida region like Orlando. That would benefit all the other clubs in the Florida state greatly at the same time.
The San Diego Lions look to have made some great player pick-ups with two solid wins in the first of the SoCal Cup. Wins agains the LA Dragons 5.10.40 to 3.3.21 and against the Orange County Giants 4.12.36 to 1.0.6 showed all and sundry the Lions could be back in the top bracket of teams come Ocotber in Sarasota at the USAFL Nationals Championships.
Next up for the Lions will be a greater test in the Western Regionals in Salem Oregon where they will take on the LA Dragons once more but also the Seattle Grizzlies and the Golden Gate Roos. After those three games we will probably have a better idea of how much the Lions have improved this year. At last years Natonals the Lions they went 1-2 in Division 2 in Racine.
The newly developing team down in Georgia the Savannah Hurricane got a leg up for their development by hosting four USAFL teams for their first game. The Savannah Invitational on June 29th was the first ever game of Aussie Rules Football in Savannah and was earmarked as the start of Georgia's 3rd team. The game mostly orchestrated by the Atlanta Kookaburras drew on players also from the Rome Redbacks, Jacksonville Saints and Tampa Bay Tiger Sharks.
The Hurricane has been born out of two past USAFL players, Justin Ward from the Atlanta Kookaburras and Elliot Szabo formerly of the Nashville Kangaroos. Both Ward and Szabo had moved to Savannah several years ago but were keen to start a team in Savannah when the Atlanta club indicated their goals to help grow the game in the South East region of USA.
The Savannah Hurricane now practice regularly right in the center of Savannah near the iconic fountain in the famous Forsyth Park.
Check out more about the Hurricane on their website. www.savfooty.com
The Denver Bulldogs traveled up to Des Moines for the annual 80/35 10's tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. The say road trips build character, well this one in 4 mini vans, and 10 hours later, we are sure there was at least a load of good times. The games for the Bulldogs did not go to plan however. Missing several key players the Dogs went down in the first game to host club the Des Moines Roosters, who put on a powerful display. Later the Denver regained some composure to test the Chicago Swans to about a 4 goal difference, however fell short of a win this time.
Along with the men's team several women also traveled and took on the experienced Minnesota women and the newer Chicago women's team. Neither was the result they were hoping for, but experiences like these makes the difference and builds confidence for suture encounters.
Lady Bulldogs 0.1.1
Minnesota Women 13.10.88
Lady Bulldogs 3.7.25
Chicago Women 10.7.67
Want read more, check out the full article on www.denverbulldogs.com
The Denver Reserves rolled into the Central Regionals tournament as the lowest-ranked men’s team. Last year at the USAFL National Championships they finishing runner-up in the Division 5 comp. However on the weekend they went 3-0 to sweep the Div title away from the Nashville Kangaroos. The Bulldogs Reserves team was a mixed group of club veterans and new rookies. With wins against Oklahoma and Dallas early in the day, both fairly good teams, the stage was set for the final against the Kangaroos who had also won their two earlier games.
The Denver team however showed their class in the late afternoon final, running out winners by just 5 points in a very close affair.
Denver Bulldogs 3.1.19
Nashville Kangaroos 2.2.14
Read up more on the Denver Bullldogs website here. www.denverbulldogs.com
The Atlanta Kookaburras kicked off their 2019 season with a solid home game win against long time rivals the North Carolina Tigers, taking the honors by 62 points. Playing a full scale game for the first time at NH Scott Park in Decatur, the Kookaburras hit the scoreboard early and never looked back.
With a mixture of past players returning and some new recruits the Kookaburras lead at every change and broke up the game in the third term with a 6 goals to 1 quarter. New players Seth Stokes & Tanguy Peres combined well with the returning George Huntzicker in the center and Chase Trujillo who was playing his first game back in two years.
Up forward Asst Coach Linley Laverdure helped himself to 4 goals from as many shots and was well supported by Tom Gultom and Chase Trujillo with 2 and 3 goals respectively. Holding steady in the backline were Club Captain Ryan Downey and his Vice Captain again Braden Medders who used their experience to thwart many NC Tigers attacks. The visiting team put up a valiant effort and kept the Kookaburras honest at every chance however fell short on the day.
The Kookaburras next game is their first trip up the road NW to Rome GA on May 11th to take on the Redbacks. A team they helped start last year and got beat twice for the effort, so some redemption we are sure is on the cards.
Atlanta 15 goals.10 behind. 100 points.
NC Tigers 5 goals 8 behinds 38 points
Goalkickers: Laverdure 4, Trujillo 3, Gultom 2, Huntzicker 2, Peres 2, Johnson & Ridenhour 1 each.
Best Players: Downey, Peres, Trujillo, Huntzicker, Medders, Stokes.
From channel surfing one day to a professional AFLW contract only a year or so later, such is the story of Danielle Marshall from the Arizona Hawks. A fabulous story of how quickly the women's game is spreading around the world and how these opportunities are available right now here in the USA. With so much talent here in the USA across all sports, this story wasn't surprising, maybe a little it would be a woman first though, however we believe it wont be the last.
Sure there are others players that have made a go of it in Australia as Americans, but none till Danielle Marshall have actually come through a USAFL club environment first.
Congratulations to Dani and the Arizona Hawks.
After growing up in Hobart the Capital city of Tasmania, Australia, in August 1997 Martin took up residence in Chapel Hill NC and so begun one of the most decorated footy careers of any USAFL player so far. This isn’t just about 200 games at USAFL level, it is so much more.
Martin’s first game here in the US at the young age of 23 was with North Carolina when they took on the short lived South Carolina team at a clinic that was run at the time by an AFL legend himself, Paul Roos. Roosey ran the clinic then umpired the game with players from Atlanta, SC & NC and Tri Cities TN playing. News is the Marto kicked a handy 6 goals in that game on his USAFL debut.
Martin played 5 years at the North Carolina Tigers, coaching for 4. He worked tirelessly on and off the field to help develop that club, before spending a year in Tucson AZ playing summer league footy with the Tucson Javelinas.
It was playing with the Tuscon/Mojave Desert Greens combined team at the Atlanta 2004 USAFL National Championships that Martin got chatting to Clay Atkins from Seattle who was also moving to Portland Oregon around the same time. In 2005 they would join forces with club founder Scott Johnson, who was trying to get the club off the ground. With only a handful of players they began building the foundation of the Portland club. In the early stages Coventry and Johnson both played with the Seattle Grizzlies who were also pretty new on the USAFL scene.
So let us get back to the start, what makes Martin one of the most decorated players in the USAFL history? Try this on, 15, yes 15 Best & Fairest (MVP) club player awards. Martin won 3 B&Fs at North Carolina and has won 12 at the Portland Steelheads, including 11 of those in a B&F winning streak that could be the longest in the world. With 106 games now also for Portland, surely there must be an award with Martin’s name on it soon in Portland! He also has 3 Best at Nationals club awards to go with 3 USAFL Nationals B&F player awards.
Along with his amazing playing achievements and dedication, he has been VP of both NC Tigers and Portland “for a few years” (his words) as well as President twice of the Portland Steelheads. And we are not done there, Martin also won the Paul O’Keefe Award for ‘Administrative Excellence' from the USAFL in 2010.
Success hasn’t been just his, Martin has played in seven USAFL Grand Finals at the National Championships with Portland & Seattle teams. His greatest day being Captain of the Portland 2016 Div 3 Championship team, winning the Div 3 B&F, and Div 3 Grand Final MVP all on the same weekend. Wow!
In 2013 women’s footy started up in Portland and Martin has grown to love the women’s footy development as well and been part of that success. Currently the Head Coach of the Portland women’s team and Assistant Coach of the Freedom, the USA National Women’s team, he continues to give back to the sport, ably assisted by his footy playing partner in crime Lauren Skonieczny.
“Over the years the thing that has changed the most is probably there are far more teams now. Back when I started there was barely a Div 2 at Nationals. Now we have 5 men’s and 2 women’s divisions.” Martin told USfootyNews. ‘ The standard is way better than ever before also and women’s footy continues to grow at a fantastic rate”, he went on to say.
Right now at the still young age of 44 Martin still enjoys being part of the team, out there on the wing, still able to keep up with the younger players and his involvement in women’s footy continues to drive his enthusiasm for the sport. “There is less pressure now on the field these days which is great, I don’t have to be the best player out there all the time, I can just enjoy myself” Martin offered also.
So what does he think is the best way to grown the sport from here on? Martin replied ‘ In Portland we have multi levels of the game now. We have non-contact games in the colder months using an indoor soccer arena. You can play tackle metro footy or USAFL footy. Introducing the game however at Social level or Ausball games, is so important. It Is where it all starts and players can play without having to worry about being bumped or tackled. This is how to best grow the game, have multiple levels of the game, so anyone can play and learn the game.”
So 200 games is a massive milestone for any Aussie Rules player, however we think we all can agree Martin Coventry has had the career in the USA that is as unique as the game is itself. Congratulations Martin from USFootyNews and all your USAFL family!
Back in Little Rock Arkansas a twelve year old Seth McElvaney started following Aussie Rules Football after he came across a remote reference to the game in a set of Encyclopedias. He started watching games with some of his young friends when he could on the brand new ESPN channel.
Move forward many years to 1997 after moving Raleigh NC with his family and attending Grad School at NC State, he came across a website called the US Australian Football Association. Seth noted at the time there was a team in Greenville South Carolina called the SC Hawks.
When contacting the leader of the USAFA at that time, Paul “Plugger” O’Keefe, Plugger asked him if he had ever played, have anyone else there that played, or been to a game.? The answer from Seth was no to all three questions however Plugger said “We’ll send you a football, how about that?” So was the beginning of Aussie Rules in Raleigh North Carolina.
The Cricket club in Raleigh that year had an AFL Grand Final watch party and Seth used that event and advertising in local newspapers to try and recruit players.
On July 4th 1998 in a grassy parking lot of the Surry County Fairgrounds in Mt. Airy, NC with the help of Roger Jolly, he played his first game with 5 other players and 6 guys from SC. Not knowing the size of the field needed Roger marked out a full size field some 175 yards long for the 6 a side game. There was a 2 hr half time to eat BBQ & watermelon and Seth managed a goal on debut. Towards the end of the game people started to arrive for 4th July fireworks celebrations at the fairgrounds and cars mildly interrupted the game as they drove across the field, not knowing there was a game on.
Seth started the NC Tigers (the team mascot coming from his watching AFL games as a kid) and was the President, Treasurer & Secretary at the beginning. In 1999 a club Board was elected and he became the official Treasurer from 1999 to 2003.
Seth was also President of the South East Australian Football League when it was in existence from 2001 to 2004. In more recent times From 2008 - 2015, he was the USAFL Nationals Umpire Director and has been the USAFLUA Secretary from 2013 - 2015 and 2016 - 2018.
In the early years Seth played 20 odd games for the NC Tigers before getting the call up to umpire a game when the umpire for the day had got lost driving to the game, no GPS thingo's in those days. Seth was the only one that may have known all the rules and so began his long umpiring career in the USAFL. During the weekend at the 2019 USAFL Nationals in Sarasota, Seth will umpire his 200th USAFL game as either a boundary, goal or field umpire.
Seth is now a Level II field umpire and was the second umpire in USAFL history to achieve that accreditation behind Jeff Persson from Nashville.
Seth has had some funny times just like in any football club. The 2001 USAFL National Championships in Washington D.C .was one he recalled where four cars with players allegedly left Raleigh for DC Friday afternoon, but later that night only three had made it. Finally a call from the occupants of the 4th car was received. They had taken a wrong turn leaving Raleigh and were in Florida, apparently driving through South Carolina and Georgia to get there. They would be heading north now and would meet the rest of the team at the first game at the field Saturday morning.!
The NC Tigers have been at the forefront of footy development since the start and Seth looking back hoped he and other clubs could have done more to keep the game going at college level. The UNC and NC State campuses both had teams for a while and would play against each other, the first such games in the USA.
Seth during our interview offered USFootyNews his ideas for the continued growth of the game in the US.
“Focus on growing the game in your city and try to get the game going in nearby cities. It's still to this day hard to get players excited about a sport when the nearest competition is over 200 miles away. When we had the South East AFL, we had too few teams to keep it going. Now that we have Atlanta, Rome and maybe Savannah in Georgia, and Jacksonville Florida coming along here in the South East, maybe we could get it going again in 2021? The 9-a-side game can also be a good tool to help out the clubs starting out, but only if the games are taken seriously. Get past players to stay involved on the administrative side of things, grow and support the umpiring corps and finally maybe make connections with Gaelic football clubs. I got the first International Rules Game in the South-East going several years ago and it helped with recruitment for both codes.”
Seth has a seen a lot of footy like anyone that has been around this game for 20+ years but his also thrilled to have his two children Olivia and Ethan participating as goal umpires now, as seen in the photo above at the recent USAFL Eastern Championships in Raleigh.
Congrats Seth from us at USFootyNews and we are sure everyone in USA footy circles applauds your years of work and continued service to the game.