Camps, Tourneys, Rivalries Cap Off Busy May

Photo: Travis Mai

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers brought us four full weekends for Aussie Rules goodness.  As we get set for a monster month of June, which includes a super weekend and the first Super Regionals, here is a look back at what transpired on the footy ovals of North America:

The season’s first month kicked off with two rivalry matches, one in the midwest and one in the desert. The Show Me Showdown saw the St Louis Blues hold home field over their cross-state rivals from Kansas City, extending their win streak over the Power.  Dave Zitko and company got a fantastic challenge from the visitors, but the locals were too powerful, stomping home winners 16.9 (105) to 6.3 (39)

Later that night, the first leg of the Surf n’ Sand Cup between Arizona and San Diego took off.  Matches in Phoenix are always an exercise in who does better in the heat.  On this night, the Jason Wilhelm-led Hawks put together their best performance in some time against the D1-level Lions, and though they lost 6.5 (41) to 2.6 (18) to Justin Valley and company, it gave Arizona a boost as their season gets going.

The following weekend kicked off with the Mid-Atlantic Cup in Richmond, Virginia.  The Baltimore Dockers looked to defend their men’s title in the five team field, and after defeating the local Virginia Lions and then the Columbus Cats, put themselves into the final.  They would face arch-rival DC Eagles, who were winners over the Lions and a combined North Carolina/Philadelphia team.  Mother Nature had other plans; lightning and storms in the area forced the cancelation of the final, with the Dockers and Eagles officially sharing the championship and the Dockers physically retaining the cup to defend in 2024.

The weather couldn’t stop the DC Eagles women, though, as they ran out 24-9 winners over an all-comers conglomerate of players from Columbus, Philadelphia, and Virginia.  The Eagles’ had their strongest season last year, and are now looking forward to this month’s super-regionals in Kansas City, where Morgan Daugherty and company look to launch their continued upward climb in the women’s division.

Out west, the opening round of the SoCal Cup bounced down on the beautiful LA County coast.  Each team will play ten games over five dates, one during each month from now until September.  The Dragons welcomed in the San Diego Lions and Orange County Giants, and the day ended with all three teams splitting their contests.  LA kicked a rueful 2.10 to fall to OC by four points, but made up for it by kicking 5.1 in an eleven point triumph over San Diego in the nightcap.  The Lions saw off Orange County 28-13 in the sandwich game.  The next round will be on June 24th in San Diego, and this expanded format is shaping up to be one of the most exciting developments of the year. 

Photo at right: Neville Newman

Finally, there was the AFL Canada tournament, which took place over two days in Hamilton, Ontario.  Much like the Canadians occasionally send down participants to our Nationals, the USAFL was represented at this second women’s carnival.  Ally Dykes and Alex Trollip of the DC Eagles were part of the The New York Magpies sent a handful of players to take their place alongside the combination of Quebec Saints and Ottawa Swans.  

The New York Magpies teamed up with the reigning AFL Ontario champion Etobicoke Kangaroos and made it all the way to the Grand Final.  They were shut out in the decider by the hometown Hamilton Wildcats, and they were led by Seattle Grizzlies import Amelia Kahr, who helped supplement an already talented side.  

A number of the participants in the event will represent the Canada Northwind and Midnight Suns in the 49th Parallel Cup, which is already shaping up to be a competitive contest.  Their American counterparts headed to Philadelphia for a three-day training camp under the watchful eye and tutelage of USA Freedom head coach Christina Licata.  “T”, her staff, and her 30+ camp invitees put in a hard working but fun weekend, as the quest to be a part of the seniors and development side to play in Racine on August 19th.

Photo: Michael Banks

As the Freedom camp unfolded, a group of men from the midwest converged in Des Moines for the 10th annual 80/35 10-a-side tournament.  A highlight of the early season calendar, this edition saw eight teams try to unseat Denver as defending champion.  The Des Moines Roosters defended their home turf to sweep Pool A, turning aside KC/Oklahoma, Chicago, and the Minnesota B team in the process.  Minnesota Freeze’s senior split team in the carnival, aka the Yeti, ran through Wisconsin, Denver, and St. Louis to clinch their own spot in the final.

Des Moines has always played Minnesota tough in their contests, and on this day came within a goal of pulling off a pretty large upset.  Brett Mergen led the containment of the Roosters’ attack, though, and converted costly turnovers into Minnesota points, and eventually a 36-31 decision.

The Hawkeye state wasn’t the only one with a big footy happening that day, however.  The 3rd Three Rivers Cup was played in Rome, Georgia, hosted by the Rome Redbacks.  Wayne Kraska and his team not only have built up a great event down there, but it is punctuated by how strong the matchups were.  Defending champions Atlanta Kookaburras were derailed in the opening game by the upstart Birmingham Bushrangers, who would go onto clinch the tournament over the Redbacks a game later.  It wasn’t all bad news for the Kookas, as they defeated Rome in the event’s first ever women’s match, a great development for the growth of women’s footy down in the South.

Two standalone matches capped off the action on May 20th.  North Texas entertained Baton Rouge; a matchup that had not taken place in April’s Baton Rouge invitational.  The Devils swarmed the game but outmatched Tigers for 13 goals and a 62-point win.  In Louisville, Kentucky, the Nashville Kangaroos upped their record to 2-0 for the year in a 58-25 victory against the Ohio Valley River Rats, the Cincinnati/Louisville combine.

May concluded in Austin, Texas on Memorial Day weekend, with the USA Revolution men’s side hosting their own pre-49PC camp.  The weekend’s highlight was a match between the Revos and the 4-time defending Men’s D1 champion Austin Crows.  It was the champs’ first competitive hit out of the year, and they threw everything they had at the Yanks.  In the end, the USA won 49-48, and coach Tommy Ellis seemed overall pleased by the performance.  Now they’ll look to carry all of that good juju into August 5th’s rendezvous with Canada.


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