2023 49th Parallel Cup Men's Preview

Aussie Rules football loves its rivalries.  Every contest, every possession, every score is magnified.

Some of them are as old as the sport itself.  WIth a history going all the way back to the 1890s, Carlton and Collingwood come to mind. On the other end of the spectrum is the QClash; Gold Coast and Sydney, established 2011.

International Aussie Rules is somewhere on the recent side of middle.  Denmark and Great Britain were the first non-Australiasian combatants in 1994.  Not long after that, the USAFL was formed, and the Americans and Canadians were ready to join the fray.

Whenever the US plays Canada in anything – Aussie Rules, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball, cricket, paddleball, poker, curling, crokinole – there’s always a heightened air of expectancy.  It doesn’t matter how nice we are as neighbo(u)rs, if you drop them on a field of some sort, one will do their damndest to beat the other.

That’s the way it is between the USA Revolution and Canada Northwind. Thus the matchup that began in 1999 will be renewed again in that thin slice of heaven on the banks of Lake Michigan – Racine, Wisconsin – as the 49th Parallel Cup men’s championship occurs for the twelfth time.

2023 49th Parallel Cup
Aussie Rules Championship of North America

Saturday, August 5
Soccer Complex of Racine (SCORe) - Franksville, Wisconsin
Men's Championship: 11am USCDT

Men's Reserves: 3pm USCDT
Free Admission
Click Here for YouTube Link

On paper, it isn’t that continent-long line alone that divides the teams.  Aside from a 45-32 defeat in Burnaby, BC in 2007, the ledger looks like the ringing chant from Lake Placid: “USA, USA, USA.”  That’s not just true of the Parallel Cup; in seventeen all-time previous matchups, including the AFL International Cup, that victory on home soil is the only time the Northwind has topped the Revos.

But footy isn’t played on paper, and the games have always been hotly contested and played to an impressive standard on both sides.  In the last two matchups – IC17 and last year’s 49PC – a rollicking third quarter by coach Tom Ellis’s group is what separated the two sides.  And, just as the standard has lifted stateside, so has it done up North.  And Ellis is ready for the challenge.

“It’s always been a physically tough game,” Ellis told USAFL.com.  “Players are usually pretty evenly matched and on the same levels of skill.  This is the biggest rivalry outside of Australia.   Name me anyone else who have played against each other as often as the USA and Canada, a full 18 games?

He should know.  Ellis has played and coached in a number of these encounters in his nearly 25 years with the Revolution program.

He’s also become accustomed to this process of assembling a squad - in this case, two squads - for an international matchup.  Since taking over as coach in 2015, Tom Ellis and his staff have guided the Revos through four previous carnivals.  And through the years they have seen their share of new talent come up through the USAFL and blossom.

“It's been a good year with a camp in Austin to kick off the year.  Lots of encouraging developments with virtual learning with help from James House back in Australia lending a hand via WhatsApp.

“It’s good to see more players finding the game.   Clubs all over the USA should be proud of the progress they have had with their players.   Club level development is the key to team USA.”

In fact, 21 USAFL clubs will be represented across the seniors and reserves.  Exactly half of the fifty men who will suit up in the red, white, and blue, will do so for the first time.  Seven first timers cracked the seniors list: Erik Anderson (Sacramento Suns), Julian David (Sacramento Suns), Chance Mire (Houston Lonestars), Andrew O’Dwyer (Nashville Kangaroos), Ted Schleisman (Denver Bulldogs), Jaxon Sher (Golden Gate), and Dennis Steinbeck (Columbus Cats).

On the other side of the spectrum, there will be a heaping helping of battle-worn PC veterans, including Philadelphia Hawk Ryan McGettigan and Andrew “Tiger” Werner of the Minnesota Freeze.  For Tiger, this will be his first time in a Revo jumper since the 2015 Cup in Florida.  They are two of the four players – Minnesota’s Steve Fashant and Seattle Grizzly Saleh Tyebjee the other – who go all the way back to the 2011 International Cup.

Canada’s squad also has a mix of new and old, and they too come to Racine with those who are looking to rewrite the history books.  There are a number of familiar foes for the Revos, including Burnaby Eagle Trent Loosemore, who came down to play with Seattle in last month’s USAFL Western Regionals.  41-year old Morgan Whyte of the Montreal Demons is back as well, and has been a consistent performer for the National side for more than a decade.  Rob Tersigni of the Toronto Rebels is another one who has racked up the minutes in Parallel Cup and International Cup matches, and he too would like nothing more than to head back to Ontario with a Northwind victory.  And Aaron Falconi (Toronto Eagles), who goes all the way back to the foundation of the International Cup in 2002 has everyone else beat.

Like the Americans, Canada’s team has a strong athletic background.  An example is Geoff Coventry (Ottawa Swans) has pro Canadian gridiron experience as a former wide receiver with the Montreal Alouettes CFL squad.  There’s also a plethora of rugby and basketball experience which always make the tough and high, contested balls an adventure.  And, like the Revos group, the whole country is represented; from the British Columbia AFL in the west, all the way out to Rob “Squiddy” Inkpen from the Halifax Dockers in the east.

In the end, Ellis and his team know that the fellows in the red and black will throw everything and the kitchen sink at them.  And, no matter how fierce the rivalry, there is a ton of respect for what the Canadian program has produced.

“Like always [the matchup will be] hard and tight. They are a good squad and well coached.   AFL Canada has done great work.”

AFL Canada’s Patrick McNeil contributed to this article.

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