Top Ten Games of Season 2017

Treats from Oz

From its humble beginnings in the cracklings of spring through the largest National Championships on record, the 2017 USAFL season saw its share of great games and memorable performances.  With the season over, and with the calendar on its last page, we are once again counting down the Top Ten games from this year.

The biggest criterion for selection is that the game is recorded.  Between and our broadcast partners – the EFL, AFL, Girls Play Footy, and GoLive SportsCast – we recorded nearly fifty matches from coast-to-coast across the USA and Australia.  We were there for each of the Regional tournaments during the summer, the AFL International Cup and USA Liberty Tour in Melbourne, and finally the 21st USAFL Nationals in San Diego.

Other than that – game excitement, weight, and other factors play into whether a game made the list, and where it’s ranked.  We’ll begin the count down on Monday, December 11th, and add a new game each weekday until Friday, December 22nd.

To whet your appetite between now and then, here are a couple of honorable mentions of games that just missed the list.

HONORABLE MENTION: Texas Heat 0.4.4 def Columbus/North Star/Chicago 0.3.3
USAFL Nationals, Women’s Division 2 – October 21, San Diego, CA

As has been the case each of the last two seasons, the growth in the women’s game has yielded growth in the field at Nationals.  With three new women’s teams starting up in 2017 came memorable debuts in San Diego.  The first of which was the Heat – made up of players from Houston, Dallas, and Wisconsin – outlasting a side made up of players from Columbus, Chicago, and the new North Star Blue Ox. 

Forty minutes yielded no goals, but a gritty effort from the Heat, many of whom were playing their first competitive game of footy, got them their historic first win.  Led by Aubrey Bagley and Bec Stevens, the Texans would finish 2-2 on the weekend, and give notice that the future was bright for women’s football in the South.

Watch: Texas v Columbus (

HONORABLE MENTION: Los Angeles/Arizona/Des Moines/San Francisco-B 2.0.12 def Baltimore-Washington/Boston 0.3.3
USAFL Nationals, Women’s Division 2 – October 21, San Diego, CA

Not long after the Heat were successful in their debut, another debutante, the LA Dragons, picked up their first win on the women’s side in Nationals play.  Going up against a combination featuring the largest Lady Eagles contingent in that program’s history, and a talented group from Boston, the Dragons were teamed up with players from Arizona, Des Moines, and reserves players from San Francisco.  Trailing 2-0 at the half, the Dragons rattled off two goals to seal the victory.  Yuie Kawakatsu’s strike 90 seconds in was the winning tally, and Lelani Silvio provided the insurance.

The Dragons 3-1 record put them in second, and much like the Heat, put their warning stamp on the rest of the competition for the upcoming seasons.

Watch: Los Angeles v Baltimore-Washington (

NUMBER TEN: USA Liberty 2.7.19 def Bulleen-Templestowe Bullants 0.5.5
USA Liberty Tour of Australia – August 8, Bulleen, Victoria, Australia

Debuting in 2012, the USA Liberty development program has been a pathway to the senior national team side, the USA Freedom.  While being successful in that respect, they had yet to win a game.  They came to Australia alongside the National teams competing in IC17 on a five game tour of local Melbourne based VAFA clubs, looking to break their duck.  After dropping a competitive opener to a combined Essendon Districts/Western Regional All-Star team, the Liberty travelled to Bulleen to face the talented Bullants. 

After nearly three whole quarters of arm wrestling, Robyn Leslie and Leilani Silvio broke the game open with majors within minutes of each other, then held on in the final term to taste the sweet nectar of scoring more points than their opponent for the first time.  There would be two more victories during the fortnight, and the Liberty would finish the tour with a winning record at 3-2, taking promise and memories home from the trip.

WATCH: Liberty v Bulleen-Templestowe (

NUMBER NINE: Golden Gate Roos 6.4.40 def Los Angeles Dragons 2.1.13
USAFL Nationals, Men’s Division 1 Grand Final – October 22, Del Mar, California

Fittingly enough, the first National Championships played in California since 2000 featured two Golden State teams battling it out for the Division honor.  The two teams’ were quite familiar with each other from years of battle, but each were seeking their first D1 flag.  The Dragons were here for the first time, while the Roos were making their fourth finals appearance.  The match featured skill on both sides, and a titanic clash between Roo ruck Ben Dowdell and Dragons big man Donald Lee.

It took a half off footy for Golden Gate to figure out how to neutralize LA’s prolific forward Pat Nicholls, but once Bryan Dragus, Jake Ryan and the Roos round their stride, they kicked away in the second half to claim their rightful place as the best team in the USAFL.

WATCH: Golden Gate v Los Angeles (GoLive SportsCast)

NUMBER EIGHT: New York/Philadelphia/Boston 5.13.43 def Columbus/Baltimore-Washington 4.6.30
Eastern Regionals – June 24, Raleigh, North Carolina

Just like the 2016 ERT women’s clash, the 2017 edition produced a competitive game, and a number of strong performances from women that we would see just two months later in Melbourne, as well as players to keep an eye on both for club and country.  New York and company jumped out to a 27-point quarter time lead, only to see Alex Pike and Katrina Scherer put the Jillaroos on their back and close the gap to seven at halftime.

The Magpies, however, led by forward Clare Algozin and veteran defender Drea Casillas, kept “Sonic” Scherer and the Jills at bay, and held on to win their third straight regional title.

WATCH: New York v Columbus (

NUMBER SEVEN: Seattle Grizzlies 2.2.14 def Montreal Angels 1.4.10
USAFL Nationals, Women’s Division 1 – October 21, Del Mar, California

On paper, the Valerie Moreau-led Montreal Angels looked like a good pick to win Pool A of their women’s division draw and make it to the Grand Final.  On paper, the Seattle Grizzlies would be lucky to pick up a win in a tough group in their D1 debut.

Good thing they don’t play footy on paper.

Montreal got the first goal of the game, but Marisa Poorboy and the Grizzlies fought off the powerful Angels attack, then slung lightning of their own as Marian Dickenson picked off a clearance for one goal, and Morgan Clifford burned the defense for another.  That was all they needed to pick up a memorable first D1 win at Nationals.

WATCH: Seattle v Montreal (  

NUMBER SIX: Dallas Magpies 5.6.36 def Austin Crows 2.3.15
Central Regionals Grand Final – June 10, North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Austin Crows seemingly had everyone’s number over the past few seasons, including that of their arch rivals, the Dallas Magpies.   The Crows won the first two games of the day, extending their win streak to 27 games, second in league history.

Then they ran into the Dallas Magpies.

Getting off to a flying start, Dallas took a steady lead behind veterans Craig Storer and Grant Jortner, and though they had the lead over Austin at halftime, the Crows had come back from big deficits before.  The miracle never came, however, and the Magpies picked up their first regional title and brought the Crows back to earth in Icarian fashion.

WATCH: Dallas v Austin (

NUMBER FIVE: USA Revolution 6.9.45 def Canada Northwind 3.7.25
AFL International Cup – August 6, Melbourne, Australia

After three years of waiting, the Revos traveled to Melbourne with Destination: MCG in their mind.  Their first obstacle was arch rival Canada, who had felt the pain of fourteen losses in fifteen games at the hands of their American rivals and wanted to make a statement in game one.

After falling behind 14-12 at halftime, Tom Ellis’s team reeled off five straight goals in the third term from every conceivable angle, led by Dave Restrepo’s three majors.  That spurt in the premiership quarter was all they would need to clinch another win over our neighbors from the North.

The Revos would finish 4th at IC17 with a 3-2 record, but beating Canada was a big notch in the belt.

WATCH: USA Revolution vs Canada (

NUMBER FOUR: Seattle Grizzlies 4.3.27 def San Diego Lions 3.2.20
USAFL Nationals Men’s Division 3 Grand Final – October 22, Del Mar, California

Two western teams on the upswing; the boys from the Emerald City against the hometown Lions for the D3 flag.  The Grizzlies had gone through pool play not allowing a single goal, but San Diego jumped on them like a kid on a pogo stick.  After trailing early, the Grizzlies used their great defense, led by game MVP Alex Jessup, to turn defense into attack.

The Grizz roared back into a late lead, and though the Lions would get back to within seven points, they would run out of time.  But the result signaled the strength of both teams, especially Seattle, who are steadily rising up alongside the rest of the Western Region.

WATCH: Seattle v San Diego (GoLive SportsCast)

NUMBER THREE: Minnesota Freeze 3.3.21 def Sacramento/Portland 2.8.20
Western Regionals Men’s Division 2 – July 8, Westminster, Colorado

This game had it all.  The Suns/Sockeyes combo needed a win to clinch their third straight Western Division 2 championship.  Kendall Hutchings took the mark of the year in the first half, and the Suns kicking struggles kept the Freeze in the lead through the nail-biting final few minutes.

With the game tied at 20 and the conglomerate within just one score of the title, it was the Freeze that stood up to the challenge to keep it deadlocked.  With their final push, Ryan McLuen took a Minnesota mark, earning a kick after the siren.  “Hanga”’s point gave the Freeze the win, and the Seattle Grizzlies their first regional championship.

WATCH: Minnesota v Sacramento/Portland (

NUMBER TWO: San Francisco Iron Maidens 2.2.14 def Denver Lady Bulldogs 1.0.6
USAFL Nationals, Women’s Division 1 Grand Final – October 22, Del Mar, California

Every year since 2013, the D1 Women’s title has been decided by the Maidens playing Lady Bulldogs.  Unlike previous seasons, neither team was the odds on favorite to reach the Grand Final.  By Sunday afternoon, however, both clubs had shut up their detractors and went to play each other in the Grand Final for the third time.

In an epic tug of war that top the 2016 decider, both the Maidens struck first and then held on for dear life.  When a Lindsay Kastanek goal drew Denver within two points before halftime, the game was completely up for grabs.  But the Maidens defense, led by Bevin English, shut down any hope the Bulldogs may have had before Carly Smolak took out her hammer and spike and booted home the clinching goal.

With the win, the Maidens became the third women’s team to repeat as D1 champions, and the GGAFL became the second team – after Denver – to win the men’s and women’s D1 title in the same year.

WATCH: San Francisco v Denver (GoLive SportsCast)

NUMBER ONE: Golden Gate Roos 6.4.40 def Denver Bulldogs 5.4.34
Western Regional, Men’s Division 1 – July 8, Warminster, Colorado

Each championship campaign has one defining game along the way.  For the Golden Gate Roos, it was defeating the mighty Bulldogs in Denver in the final game of the day to give them back-to-back Western Regional championships.  That they won on the road was impressive enough, but the way that they won put their stamp on the competition as the best team in the country.

After a listless first half, and missing star player Jake Ryan, the Roos found themselves down by three goals at halftime.  Led by ruck Ben Dowdell and rookie sensation Cody Burman, the Roos stormed back in the second half and held on to win by a straight kick at the siren.  Though the win was not enough to convince the USAFL Top 20 pollsters as to their prowess, the win in Colorado was a harbinger for Nationals weekend, as Golden Gate brought home their first ever men’s Division 1 National Title.

Watch: Golden Gate v Denver (

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