2001 USAFL President's Speech

With the recent events in the US, many people are taking pause for reflection and to appreciate what amazing times we live, both good and bad. As I look back at our first five years existence, the accomplishments that have been achieved and continue to be achieved still amaze me. What started out as three teams in the Midwest has blossomed into a nationwide competition that will reach the forty-team milestone next year.

Each year when I sit down to write the Presidents report, Im always outlining significant gains the league has made and I wonder at what point we will stop making these outstanding gains. After another blockbuster year, I now know well never slow down.

The year 2001, like each of our first five, saw numerous programs implemented, advanced and some come to complete fruition. Sponsorship was a huge focus for the USAFL in 2001 and after hundreds of man-hours and negotiations, we finalized a multi-year deal with Coopers Brewery of South Australia. This deal, worth nearly $75,000 annually in sponsorship and product, has lifted the league and member clubs to the next level with our first large, financial corporate sponsor.

The USAFL also signed a three-year agreement with the AFL, giving us financial security for the foreseeable future. The Burley Sekem agreement also went to another level, exceeding $50,000 in turnover in just our first twelve months of the sponsorship agreement. Add to this, all of the free wine provided by McPherson Wines of Australia to our Clubs, the ongoing commissions to Clubs from Telegroup, the group discount programs from Australian Products and Avid Outdoor that are in the works, the excellent service from Nelson Schmidt Advertising, and you can see that the USAFL is gradually building a healthy list of reputable sponsors. Having Red Bull and Outback Steakhouse attend the Nationals this year, was an added bonus to Clubs and Players.

Another area of focus for the League was that of training our umpires and accrediting our club coaches. This started in March of this year when we hosted the AFL National Training Manager and the AFL Assistant Umpire Coach. Over 40 USAFL members took advantage of this great opportunity and following two additional clinics around the country, the program will come to fruition at this years Nationals. Approximately 20 Level One Umpires and Umpire Coaches will be accredited, a far cry of our zero in 2000. The Coach numbers are even more impressive, seeing nearly 30 people receive their Level One Accreditation. The USAFL injected over $12,000 into these clinics, with the outcome being more than satisfactory to all clubs and members.

The National Team, the American Revolution, also achieved a major landmark this year by traveling to, and competing in their first inter-continental Tournament, the five nation Atlantic Alliance Cup in London. The team, which returned just
days before the National Championships after a successful week in London
came equal second on points after the round robin stage of the tournament
alongside Denmark and Britain, having a marginally better percentage. The inaugural USAFL scholarship player, Dustin Jones spent three weeks training with legendary coach Kevin Sheedy and the Essendon Bombers.

From the administration aspect, the USAFL showed everyone involved our level of professionalism and organization.

This year also saw the first Club Administrators Conference, held in Cincinnati and attended by over 40 USAFL members. This event, completely funded by the USAFL, involved two very successful days going over League and Club Administration. The USAFLs Constitution was also signed, moving the League to yet another level.

To add to this, the USAFL appointed its first Executive Director. This constituted our first paid position in addition to partial funding for the North American Junior Strategist, again allowing us to develop programs in an exacting way and enabling them to come to completion.

Junior development again made huge strides, implementing our hotspot program and 2002 will see an incredible increase in Juniors participation. An incredible 13,000 kids were exposed to Aussie Rules across North America in 2001 and kudos must go to Greg Everett and everyone on the Junior Development Committee.

The league as a whole, on and off the field, continued its exponential development. Phoenix formed the first ever Metropolitan League, San Diego won its third successive CAFL Grand Final, Chicago was atop the MAAFL, Atlanta won the inaugural SEAFL Grand Final and Seattle started playing Vancouver in what will develop into a North Western League. All of these achievements, in addition to having 20 teams attend the National Tournament Championships, proves the strength and depth of the league and that Aussie Rules is here to stay in the US.

Across the league, over $1,000,000 was generated in fundraising, expenditure and investments. This is a truly amazing feat and I hesitate to guess where well be in another five years. As I head back to Australia, I will proudly represent the USAFL by being the appointed USAFL/AFL & Australian Liaison in addition to being the Americas delegate of the newly formed AFL International Development Committee. Ive made hundreds of great friends through my involvement and in these uncertain times, friends seem more important than ever.

Richard Mann

USAFL President 1999-2001

- Richard Mann

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