Season Preview Part II - Mens East Region South

The Southeast section of the USA has been fertile ground for Aussie Rules in the past two decades.  Though things had withered a bit, over the past few years, things are flourishing now, as older clubs are coming into their own, and new ones are blossoming.

In the past twelve months, no fewer than three new USAFL clubs have joined the fray from regions that were yet unrepresented.  From sunny Jacksonville, to proud Rome, Georgia, on through to historic Richmond, these new clubs took their place and are hoping to bring not just a sport to their regions, but a part of the communal fabric.

Add to that the Columbus Cats, a team which for many years had been in the Central but always had its heart beat with the eastern clubs, and this set of teams look to make 2019 a memorable season.


2018 Record:      1-6
Nationals:           0-3          6th Place, Division 4

2018 Recap: Ignore the record for a moment and consider this: the Atlanta Kookaburras may have laid the groundwork for how a team in the USA should be built.  With an extremely successful AFL Social program and a robust metro league, Wayne Kraska and the rest of the Kookas hierarchy has constructed a pathway to a sustainable club for years to come.  What’s more, but Atlanta is helping to develop the Rome Redbacks, as well as a new developing entity out in Savannah, which may make its debut this year. – BB

From the team: "The Kookaburras took several strategic and deliberate steps in 2018 with the major goals beiing the rebuilding of our base membership and the awareness of the sport in the Atlanta region. This has culminated in a larger training group for 2019 and the reintroduction of a women's team for the first time since 2010. We are super excited how we are going towards our future plans." – Wayne Kraska, President

Key Matchups: “The mens team head to Louisville KY to meet the Ohio Valley outfit for the first time in a home and away series. The last time the Kookaburras were in Louisville was possibly the 2007 Louisville Nationals.” – Wayne Kraska, President

2019 Outlook: With a strong foundation in place behind bedrock defenders and club champions Ryan Downey and Braden Medders, Atlanta looks to stretch their legs a bit in terms of opponents.  An early season tussle this week at home against North Carolina, as well as a home and home against Ohio Valley will prove a good strong litmus test for how far along this unit has become.  It will also be fun seeing them measure up against the eastern teams at Raleigh.  Division 4 is always a bit of a wild card, but Atlanta should bring a strong flock down to Sarasota to jostle for their first Grand Final appearance in eight seasons. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record:      4-4
Nationals:           2-1          3rd Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: The Buckeye crew dropped their original names and colors for blue and white hoops and a new, unified identity.  In their first big test of the year, the went 2-1 on a wet day in Philly to eke out the D2 Eastern Regional on percentage over Boston, and were right in the thick of things for the EAFL ladder throughout the year.  Inspirational leader and Revo veteran Clyde Simpson returned from his reserves premiership win at Rainbow-Jelerup over in country Victoria to lead the Cats to the D3 semifinals, where they would record their first ever loss to the Philadelphia Hawks. – BB

From the Team: “We're definitely looking to retool our list with a lot of younger players. We've managed to retain almost all of our team from last season, but the club needs an influx of youth in order to maintain long-term success. Our club has a lot of recruiting planned so I think you'll see a lot of new faces this year and we'll be gunning for a division 3 flag.”

Key Matchups: “@NY against NY and Baltimore. As a coach, I am looking forward to travelling long distance and seeing how the club can do against top competition. We'll be stressing high turnout for this one and want to have a good showing.”

2019 Outlook: Columbus has always been a team who has excelled at recruiting locally, and it has yielded a number of Revolution reps.   Despite the drop from Division 2 to Division 3 last season, the Cats are still one of the more competitive teams in an Eastern region that has equilibrated more and more over the past three seasons, led by locals and by Aussie vets like Declan Stimpson.  Staying healthy during the long trek will be the key to whether they can capture their first flag in six seasons. – BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 3

2018 Record:      0-0
Nationals:           1-2          3rd Place, Division 4 (w/Houston-B and Indianapolis)

2018 Recap: With no USAFL team in the immediate area for the first time in several years, the Squids focused on their metro competition to keep fit during the year.  They would, however, team up with the Houston Lonestars reserves and the Indianapolis Giants and make it to the Division 4 semi-final, losing to Arizona/Vegas.  Aussie stalwart Ben Schmidt garnered the most votes for the cephalopods on the weekends. – BB

2019 Outlook: With a new club in Jacksonville, one developing in Orlando, and Nationals up Alligator Alley in Sarasota the Squids look to be more active in league play in 2019.  There is talent to build on with the right amount of recruiting, including Anthony Colarusso, and JJ Burke, the latter coming off a successful stint in Australia with Jacana (Essendon Districts FL) and St. Mary’s (NTFL) – BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record:      0-0
Nationals:           Did Not Attend

2018 Recap: Planting the USAFL flag into the northern part of the Sunshine State, the Jacksonville Saints joined alongside the Rome Redbacks in May of last year.  Founder David Meide spent the club’s first official year of existence building the team and recruiting players; alas they didn’t take part in any league matches last season.

From the Club: “Despite this being the true Inaugural Year for Jacksonville Saints we are committed to giving every match our complete all. They say ‘numbers don’t lie’ and yes, we’re a small club at the moment because we’re new. However, I feel we will only continue to gain momentum throughout the Season as the Club is rapidly growing and plans for expansion in 2019 are already well underway. The players have come to embrace this ‘new club underdog mentality’ and we strongly believe it will work in our favour; keeping us hungry for success and growth. Barrack for us in 2019 or not, the fans and spectators will definitely admire our grit.” – David Meide, club president

Key Matchups: “Our Club is eager to play against the Atlanta Kookaburras in September alongside players from the Rome Redbacks.  Both the Saints and Redbacks are very young clubs with a plethora of natural talent being developed every training session. This match is a season highlight for us as it will truly be a match comprised of veteran players on the Kookaburra side and young guns out to prove themselves from our club and Rome. Our goal is to make a statement as a club during that match, more or less making ourselves known as a force to be reckoned with.” – David Meide, club president

2019 Outlook: Trainings have been small but steady in North Florida after New Year’s, but there has been a lot of interest and recruitment so far.  Meide’s enthusiasm will help bolster numbers and hopefully help the team get their bearings, and games on the road alongside Rome and Atlanta will help as the Saints march in step.

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record:      2-6
Nationals:           1-3          8th Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: When I did my first set of previews in 2015, I compared the Tigers to the song from “Damn Yankees,” You Gotta Have Heart.  The Tiges started strong with two wins from three games; at Wilmington, NC over the Dockers, followed by a win over Philly in a storm-shortened affair, and a tight eight point home loss to New York.  Led by Revo defender Erik Hansen, they battled gallantly against a shorthanded Atlanta side at the end of the season, and it propelled them into Nationals with a good group draw.  Though they would drop a 29-10 match to Boston and a 15-8 heartbreaker to Sacramento, Carolina rebounded to edge DC in the consolation play-in and finish in seventh.

2019 Outlook: Once among the lower tiered sides in the East, the Tigers have proven themselves to be consistently strong foes not only in the EAFL, but also on the National scene.  They’ve already begin their season with two losses in Richmond to Baltimore and DC, but the veteran core of this side will have things kicking into gear, literally and figuratively, as the weather gets warmer.  Hanson is one of the more feared backs in the league, and there is always the prospect of guys like Austin Doerr, Andrew Wesche, and hard hitting Scott Morris in there as well.   The Tiges do a lot of recruiting from the GAA community which gives them a unique edge to their style of play, one which will try and get them their first premiership since 2014.

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 3

2018 Record:      n/a
Nationals:           n/a

2019 Outlook: Formed at the end of last season, the Lions became USAFL team number 44 last month.   Darren Green has done an immense job just to build the foundation of a true football club, not just players who can play on the field, but to people who can sustain it in the long run.  They just hosted a successful tournament featuring Baltimore, DC, and North Carolina, and with Glover Park a solid destination for football, growth should hopefully come fast. – BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record:    2-0
Nationals:         Did Not Attend

2018 Recap: Bringing USAFL football to the college town about 90 miles NW of Atlanta, the Redbacks played a pair of Peach State Showdown matches against the Atlanta Kookaburras late in the season.  The first was by a goal on August 25th, the second by five points three weekends later.  Following the template of Atlanta’s resurgence, the Redbacks have been focusing on their social, non-contact program in order to build up their numbers.- BB

From the team: “The Redbacks start in 2018 was promising with a handful of enthusiastic players slowly learning about the game and its history. With the help of the Atlanta Kookaburras we were able to play two great games. This year we are adding some more games, our first home game and traveling hopefully with some players to other matches around the South!” – Team Statement

Key Matchups: “The highlight will hopefully be a successful home game v Atlanta on May 11th in Rome. The first ever full scale Aussie Rules Football game outside of the Atlanta area in Georgia.” – Team Statement

2019 Outlook: The leadership group that took the Redbacks through their first skittering paces are back for year number two, as Rome hosts their first game against the Kookas in a couple of weeks.   Captain Jesse Dobbs and vice-captain Randall Barnett have been the hearthstone since the club got started, and look to guide an ever growing side into its paces as they get into the season. - BB

Cover Photo: Scott Olsen

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