Tiger Sharks Swim into USAFL Family

In October, the USAFL Nationals will head to Western Florida for the second time in four years, as the freshly manicured grounds of the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch play host to the world’s biggest Aussie Rules tournament.

And the home region will have a brand new club to rep it when the footballs take flight in three months’ time.

The USAFL is proud to officially welcome the Tampa Bay Tiger Sharks as its 46th member club.

“We're super appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of the USAFL,” Robbie Scarallo, one of the many co-founders of the Tiger Sharks, told USAFL.com.  “We are excited about the future growth as well as the competitive play that is offered by the league.”

Though the Tiger Sharks are a new club, there is Aussie rules history and a solid player base in the region.  Tampa Bay has been served by two previous USAFL clubs – the Florida Redbacks (1998-2013), and the St. Petersburg Swans (2015-2017).  The Redbacks joined forces with the Ft. Lauderdale Fighting Squids to reach the 2010 Division 3 Grand Final, where they lost to Austin.  The Swans, meanwhile, got to the D4 Final in 2016, the last time Lakewood Ranch hosted Nationals, and lost to Ohio Valley.

In addition to those who have taken part for the previous clubs, there are players who have experience elsewhere in the USAFL who are part of the inaugural group.

So far, Scarallo says that between 15-20 players have been active in Saturday practice sessions, mostly Americans.  They have three Australians, and right now “two or three” women, on average, have been practicing with the club.

According to another co-found, Greg Bray, the team hasn't grown as quickly as they'd like. “Granted, the new club has just started and is still forming. Recruitment is something we intend to do a much bigger push than our former club. We are open to great ideas and methods!”

Members of the Tiger Sharks made their way up to Savannah last month for the Savannah Footy Invitational, which was contested by the Atlanta Kookaburras, Jacksonville Saints, and Rome Redbacks.  No games are on the schedule yet between now and October, but Bray explained that, along with the other developing clubs in the area, “[the] game in Savannah allowed us to start building connections with the teams in this region so that we can play against each other.

Tampa Bay’s vision is to grow the club, and the sport with it, in an area where the sports scene is has exploded over the past two decades.  With three of the four major sports leagues represented, a successful USL soccer league team thriving, and other sports played year round, the Tiger Sharks are in a very fertile area when it comes to athletics.

“We want to continue to spread the sport. We know Americans would love it if they knew about it.”

Going from an idea to reality to the league’s biggest spectacle is a dizzying prospect.  But to co-founders and the incoming club board, it’s an exciting opportunity worth relishing, especially when it comes to recruitment.

“What a great opportunity to go from a fledgling USAFL club to Nationals,” he said. “If it were across the country, it might be more difficult to pull a full team together with things being so fresh. As the team grows and matures in size, having numbers for an away game won't be an issue.

“For the Nationals, we hope to field a team of over 15 players. We think that is very doable given the numbers that have attended in the past. In addition, bring along friends, family, and Aussie Rules supporters down to watch the games.”

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