Roos Rule, Portland Does Double At Westerns

Treats from Oz

It’s a true as anything else in Aussie Rules; every team comes into every game and every tournament with something to prove.

With many teams, it’s about being the best.  With others, it’s showing how far you’ve come with new players, or with a new team altogether.

The Golden Gate Roos proved that they are still the best team in the US, turning aside all three challengers and locking up their third straight Western D1 title.  The Portland Sockeyes and Los Angeles Dragons came together to prove that their talent is among the best in the USAFL’s women’s ranks.  And Portland’s men’s team, the Sockeyes, took on a bunch of new players from the Arizona Hawks and proved that their contrail is still rising on the USAFL skyway.


The Golden Gate Roos had a reputation to uphold; as the number one team in the country, as the defending D1 National champions, and as two time Western D1 premiers.  They asserted their intentions in the opening game against the San Diego Lions and part of the Arizona Hawks contingent that had come up to Davis.  Ben Dowdell controlled the center of the ground, allowing Justin Mann to kick the opening goal.  Despite the efforts of Brandon Blankenship as the Lions backliners, Mann, Chris Smith, and Jake Ryan were overpowing over the forty minutes, and the Roos started the day with a 61-3 win.  While that was going on, Los Angeles was accounting for a surging Seattle outfit, and though Max Depina and the Grizz made the Dragons earn every point, Julian De Vizio and David Higgs’ play in the half-forward line led the Californians to victory, 52-26.

Switching opponents, it was now the Roos turn to deal with Seattle, and here again the Golden Gate front liners made their foes work in the half back line.  Depina, Alex Jessup and company had their hands full with Mann, Smith, Ryan, and Jack Lucas, but they did force the Roos into only converting of eight of their nineteen scoring shots.  Seattle went down fighting by forty points, but the Roos were into the de facto Grand Final match, where they would face Los Angeles.  San Diego managed to get their first goal of the afternoon against the Dragons, but they didn’t have any answers for big Donald Lee in the ruck and Di Vizio’s attack, but LA kicked away to a 60-7 win.

Thus, that left Roo-Dragons for the chocolates, the first time the teams had played since they met for the Divvy 1 Nationals Grand Final last October.  It was also a meeting between the #1 and #2 teams in the USAFL Top 20 Poll.  Dowdell and Lee locked horns again in this decider played in the Sacramento dusk, and the Dragons moved the ball well through Paul Jackson and Paul Loakim.  The Roos, however, hit early and often.  The forwards staked the Roos to an early lead and then kept LA at arm’s length, though the Dragons did fight back hard in the third quarter through Higgs and Justin Hall.  Manly Johnson played an understated role throughout the afternoon, and he led the Roos home as they sealed the tournament with a 53-18 triumph.

San Diego and Seattle duked it out in the undercard in another Grand Final rematch for third place in the group.  And just like their match nine months ago, it was one of the more competitive games of the day.  On this day, however, it was the Lions who came out victorious, as Domenic Graves and Daniel Hall led San Diego to a nine-point win over the defending D3 National Champs.

Final Standings: Golden Gate Roos (3-0), Los Angeles (2-1), San Diego/AZ Hawks (1-2), Seattle (0-3)

Golden Gate 9.7.61 def San Diego/AZ Hawks 0.3.3
Los Angeles 8.4.52 def Seattle 4.2.26
Golden Gate 8.1.59 def Seattle 3.1.19
Los Angeles 9.6.60 def San Diego/AZ Hawks 1.1.7
Golden Gate 8.5.53 def Los Angeles 3.0.18
San Diego/AZ Hawks 6.3.39 def Seattle 3.2.20


In their opening game, the San Francisco Iron Maidens dealt with a hungry homestanding Sacramento Lady Suns, who were looking to pick off their cross-state rivals.  After surrendering an early goal, Nicolette Clark slotted home two straight for the Lady Suns to give them the lead.  Jessica Lund would kick two of her own in the second quarter to put San Francisco back on top at halftime, where they would stay.  Both teams had members of the Arizona Lady Hawks playing for them, and veteran Melissa Wilhelm was making the biggest impact, willing the Suns in the fight, but the Maidens’ defense was too strong en route to a seventeen-point win.

Coming into the season, many tipsters had eyed the young and emerging Seattle Grizzlies as the heir apparent to San Francisco’s throne in the women’s division.  But in their opening game against Portland/Los Angeles, it was their southern rivals who would open the day with the full points.  Despite the heroics of eventual best-and-fairest April Lewis, the Sockeyes led by Aussie veteran Lucy Parrington and tall rookie Brandy Machado, went on to triumph by twenty points.

The long awaited Maidens-Grizzlies match was a bruising affair, but one that the Maidens had in control for most of the game.  The Seattle/Arizona Outlaws defense had its hands full with Robin Leslie, who punched in three major scores, and the Maidens were home 33-9.  Down the hill, Portland, led by Dragon midfielder Yuie Kawakatzu, ran through the Lady Suns by seventeen points, but not for the want of trying by Sacramento.  Makenzie Carr had a standout performance in defeat, recording several tackles and putting the pressure on the Portland Forwards.

The Sockeyes now came into the final against the Maidens.  Two years ago, the Sockeyes had combined with Minnesota to take out the Western Regional title.  Their final opponent that day?  San Francisco.

Trailing 2-0, the Sockeyes’ Parrington sent a homing missile on a free kick found a wide open Simone Shepherd in the goal square, and she tapped home the go-ahead goal.  A couple of minutes later, Heather Serpico scored the biggest goal of her footballing career, turning aside two defenders and flying home a major through a great individual effort.  Another American veteran, Courtney Sherman-Johnson, kicked a major for the Maidens to bring the margin back to three points and give her team a chance.  But Minnesota loanee Paige Kiecker, taking several key defensive marks in the final frenzied ten minutes, preserved a 13-10 victory.  Portland had won their second regional trophy, while L.A. women’s team had its first in just their second full year.

The hometown side did get their win on the day, in a low scoring tug of war with Seattle.  Carr and fellow defender Lauré Kwoka held the Grizzlies off the major scoresheet with a 7-3 win.

Final Standings: Portland/Los Angeles (3-0), San Francisco (2-1), Sacramento/AZ Hawks (1-2), Seattle/AZ Outlaws (0-3)

San Francisco 5.0.30 def Sacramento/AZ Hawks 2.1.13
Portland/Los Angeles 3.4.22 def Seattle/AZ Outlaws 0.2.2
San Francisco 5.3.33 def Seattle/AZ Outlaws 1.3.9
Portland/Los Angeles 5.6.36 def SAC/AZH 3.1.19
Portland/Los Angeles 2.1.13 def San Francisco 1.4.10
Sacramento/AZ Hawks 1.1.7 def Seattle/AZ Outlaws 0.3.3


The four clubs that contested the Division Two round seemed to be, at least on paper, pretty evenly matched.  The first set of games seemed to bear that out, as Gareth Allen and Orange County held off the Sacramento Suns by two points, and the Portland/Arizona Hawks outfit, led by forward guns Elliot Boys and John Kim, broke free of an early challenge by the Arizona Outlaws/Las Vegas Gamblers combine to come home winners by 34.

The Suns and Steelheads would lock horns in what was one of the best games of the day in the second round, as Best & Fairest winner Saleh Tyebjee, timely defender Toby Simmons, and the Suns gave Portland its toughest challenge of the day.  But Scott Wagoner would kick a couple of pretty goals, and Kim would have another strong game in a nine point Steelhead win as the Cascadians went to 2-0.  Orange County kept their sheet clean as well, behind MVP William Mounce, and they withstood Joey Lutostanski and the Outlaws by two straight kicks.

Part of the benefit of the partnership with the Hawks was that the Steelheads had the services of Revo ruck Jason Wilhelm.  In the final game, Wilhelm dominated the ruck and made himself a connecting option in the midfield, allowing rookie Jovan Mason to set up Boys and Kim during the course of the game.  Mounce, who would get the MVP honors for his efforts, kept the Bombers in the game with good ball movement to help get OC’s offense in gear, but the Steelheads/Hawks team were much the best, ending the day with a 40-19 win.

The third place matchup pitted Sacramento and the Outlaws/Gamblers combine, which embodied the Wild West in a respect, at least on the scoreboard.  The newcomer Outlaws and hearty Gambler bunch that teamed up for the weekend was full of fight, and was led by Outlaw Joey Lutostanski and Vegas’s Jason Nunes.  But for the Suns, looking to make a run for their first National title since they won D3 in 2014, this was a statement that they will be hungry in Racine, as Tyebjee locked up his award in a sixteen point victory.

Final Standings: Portland/AZ Hawks (3-0), Orange County (2-1), Sacramento (1-2), AZ Outlaws/Las Vegas (0-3)

Portland/AZ Hawks 6.7.43 def AZ Outlaws/Las Vegas 1.1.7
Sacramento 2.7.19 def by Orange County 3.3.21
Sacramento 3.3.21 def Portland/AZ Hawks 4.6.30
Orange County 4.2.24 def AZ Outlaws/Las Vegas 2.2.12
Portland/AZ Hawks 5.10.40 def Orange County 3.1.19
Sacramento 6.6.42 def AZ Outlaws/Las Vegas 4.2.26


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