Stateside Footy kicks off its tenth season with coverage of an Australian Rules Football match between the Maine Cats and the Boston Demons. This episode was recorded on location at Griffin Park in Windham, NH, in July of 2019. This episode also features an umpire's-eye view of the match, as well as a look back to our first season. "Stateside Footy" is a cable access TV show that features Aussie Rules Football as it is played in the U.S.A.
See more Stateside Footy of their Vimeo Channel here. https://vimeo.com/statesidefootytv
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
The reigning USAFL National Champions the Austin Crows had little trouble in ensuring they will go into the 2019 Championships as hot favorites by winning the Central Regional Championships in Denver this past weekend. First up they accounted for the USAFL Div 2 Champions the Minnesota Freeze by a stunning 86 points in a massive first game shut out, the final scores Austin 13.8.86 to Minnesota 0.0.00. The Freeze wanted a yardstick for their move up into Div 1, well I think they got it. The Freeze who did not attend the 2018 Central Regionals were sent home without a win, after also failing to make that much of an impression against host team the Denver Bulldogs, go down 23 to 81.
So Crows then faced the host team the Denver Bulldogs in the afternoon heat for the main prize. Traveling in huge numbers the Austin outfit were quite ready for the task. Denver although with the luxury of being in their home field surroundings, were no match for the Crows. In the end it was a 36 point victory for Austin, 8.8.56 to Denver 3.2.20.
Austin now have a month off before facing Dallas and Oklahoma in Dallas. Things are looking pretty good though for the Texas leaders in 2019.
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.
Headlines were made in the AFL community recently when Greater Western Sydney CEO David Matthews spoke openly about the Giants potentially playing a match for premiership points in the United States. In comments made to The Age, Matthews admitted that he had been in related talks with both the AFL itself and Tourism Australia to see if such a game would be feasible.
"Our preference would be a premiership game,” Matthews stated. “That said, like a lot of clubs, we're in discussions with the AFL about their aspirations for AFLX."
"The USA is an attractive prospect based on their love of sport, connection to Australia and their status as a significant trading partner," said the AFL’s David Stevenson.
If a match were played in the USA, it would have to be in a large city such as Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. The obvious lack of American cricket ovals would likely be the biggest obstacle. As recently as 2006, the AFL staged a preseason match between Sydney and North Melbourne in LA (at the UCLA intramural sports field), but it drew lackluster numbers. Other American cities that have hosted AFL or VFL matches in the past include San Francisco, Portland and Miami.
There is certainly enough grassroots enthusiasm in the US for a footy match to be played, both among Americans in the USAFL and in the Aussie expat community. Even AFL legends such as former Essendon and GWS coach Kevin Sheedy have thrown their support behind the idea. In addition, the Australian ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, has been a key patron of the USAFL for many years. With that being said, the logistical challenges would be great and the AFL might quickly soften on the concept if it isn’t done the right way.
The history of the AFL staging international matches has been mixed. Back in 2013, the St Kilda Football Club first pioneered the idea of taking premiership matches overseas -- specifically an Anzac Day match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. The idea only lasted three years and was eventually put on hiatus due to dwindling crowd numbers and a lack of stadium availability. The Saints’ board hasn’t given up on its NZ dreams though, talking to officials in Auckland about potentially staging a game there as recently as 2016.
The more notable international match in recent seasons has come from Port Adelaide, which “hosts” the annual Shanghai clash. First played in 2017 against the Gold Coast Suns, Port has managed to get valuable exposure in China, one of the biggest markets for sports, but the games still haven’t always drawn the expected attendance figures, earning criticism from some corners of the Aussie media.
One positive that the USAFL can draw from the China experiment is that fact that AFL Asia has benefited from being able to host curtain-raiser matches before the Port game. If a game were to be played for premiership points on US soil, the USAFL would surely take advantage and attempt to organize a tournament accordingly. Similarly to China, the pleasant American summer weather would be a draw as well.
Again, the elephant in the room is the absence of quality cricket ovals. The only American oval recognized by the International Cricket Council is the Central Broward Regional Park (CBRP) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The USAFL used the complex for the 2015 49th Parallel Cup (the clash between the US and Canadian national teams) and it was purposely built to host cricket matches. With a capacity of 20,000, it could draw a quality crowd for, say, an AFL preseason match. Given that the AFL has proven somewhat cautious about international expansion in the past, a preseason game would be a good way to test the American waters. Many Aussie expats and US fans alike would be keen to make the trip to Florida to watch. However, flights from Australia itself would be dauntingly expensive and the AFL itself has implied that a West Coast-based game would be preferable.
Apart from the CBRP, most of the American ovals are either privately-owned and difficult to book, not large enough to support a crowd of thousands, lack high-quality turf, or all of the above. If the CBRP isn’t available, the best option would be to commission a baseball stadium or gridiron field and turn it into an AFL oval for one day.
New York could be an option, as they have both Gaelic fields and college intramural complexes that could be temporarily converted. Having lived in LA previously, I know that there’s no shortage of quality fields, but the ability to actually schedule a match there would be challenging. Stadiums such as the Rose Bowl and the LA Coliseum would probably be skeptical unless they could guarantee a solid crowd, and it’s highly unlikely that Dodger Stadium would allow anything non-baseball related to be played there over the summer.
One tantalizing option could be Hawai’i. Aloha Stadium, best known for hosting the NFL’s Pro Bowl, seats 50,000 people and is going to be redeveloped in the next few years. Flights would be much cheaper from Australia to Hawai’i (as opposed to the mainland US) and the local media would probably be enthusiastic about it. In addition, a game in Hawai’i could also serve as an opportunity to showcase AFL in the rugby-crazy Pacific.
Wherever the location is, I just hope that the AFL Commission gives the project its due diligence. A game staged in America could be a massive boon for the sport on both sides of the Pacific, but I just hope that the AFL is willing to listen and give full support. The bottom line is that there’s more than enough enthusiasm from all parties to make the event a success. We’ll just have to see where it goes.
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