AZAFL Metro Tournament

Treats from Oz

Descending upon an unsuspecting population, footy players from across the
continent swept into this bustling metropolis on a cool, crisp Friday
night.

After the quick stop at the hotel these warriors of the oval paddock girded
themselves for the next days battle as any self respecting footy player
would. The tournament hotline rang time and again with the same query;

Pops,

how do I get to the pub again?

In such an uncharacteristic manner, many players met up at the hub of the
weekend tournament's social calendar, Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe. The
festivities were underway setting the tone for the tournament. It was
widely
expected to be as much a social gathering of like-minded footy lovers as it
was a competition. I suspect most participants in the tournament felt these
expectations were reached and possibly exceeded in some cases.

In the first tournament of its kind in the North American Continent (or the
planet for all I know), the Arizona Australian Football League hosted the
2002 AZAFL Metro Footy Tournament. Amid tremendous fanfare the teams took
to
the grounds in pursuit of the coveted World Metro Footy Championship AZAFL
Trophy (assuming once again there are no other tournaments of its kind).

Not
even the Stanley Cup or Superbowl can make such a shameless declaration. We
in Arizona, no strangers to shameless behaviour, do so without reservation.
Teams and players from the four corners of the continent arrived Saturday
morning with the quest for the AZAFL Premiership. Little did we realize the
magnitude of our humble event. As far north as Milwaukee players arrived
ready for a run on the specially grown "Arizona Gold Desert Hybrid Bermuda
Straw Grass". Requiring very little water or maintenance, teams remarked
time and again on the beauty of the grounds. Later in the day, after a
devastating hip and shoulder, they skipped across the pitch like a rock on
a
still pond. The Los Angeles Crows, Denver Bulldogs, 2001 USFooty Premiers
San Diego Lions, Orange County Bombers, Phoenix Scorpions, Tucson Javelinas
and newly formed Chicago Sharks attended the tournament.

With two fields going simultaneously, four teams began this historic
tournament (do the math, it works out). The Phoenix Scorpions, led by
Captain Jeff "Fingers" Purcell and Head Coach Jeff Richards, took to the
paddock against their long time nemesis both in footy and the boat race,
Denver Bulldogs. AZAFL newcomer Tucson Javelinas to the ground for the
other
match against the Orange County Bombers captained by David Thurmond and
with
coach and token Tasmanian Simon Milburn at the helm. Phoenix managed a hard
fought win against the determined Doggies in the first round of Pool A
play.

Fingers Purcell exploded for 4 goals in the 2 x 20-minute match format
giving the Scorpions the first official victory of the tournament in a
close
match. Chris Candelaria and Matt Dainauski both booted a pair of goals
keeping the Bulldogs close to the hustling Scorps. Darren "Pricilla" Toohey
garnered the match best on ground vote with his exceptional play both
taking
screaming marks and delivering the footy with exceptional timing to his
open
teammates (there Toohey, you got your pat on the back. Where's my $20?).
The
newbie Javs found the going a bit tougher as the Orange County Bombers put
on a display of football not seen since round 8 of the 1996 AFL season when
the Collingwood Magpies worked over the Carlton Blues. Kicking, marking and
seemingly scoring at will, the Bombers put the rest of the tournament
competitors on notice that they were here to win. Mark Seccull, seemingly
unstoppable, booted a tournament record 6 goals in the first match. Suffice
to say, OC ran away with the match. Okay, how many of you looked up the
stats on the 1996 season? You're the only ones who knew I made that
reference up. Until now that is.

The second round of matches saw the Chicago Sharks taking the ground for
the
very first time against the veteran Los Angeles Crows. The Crows were
accurate kickers to be sure, booting eight goals to the Shark's one. Paul
Scerri and Mark Durstow both connected with 3 goals apiece to seal the
Sharks fate. The Sharks seemed like a fish out of water at times during the
match, and at other had passages of play which was as graceful as one of
those really smart dolphins at Sea World that do all sorts of really cool
tricks for just a handful of sardines. Suffice to say, the Sharks had their
work cut out for them this weekend. And to the occasion they did rise.
Well,
sort of. The Crows showed their poise and skill by keeping the newly formed
Chicago club on its heels for most of the match. One might have suggested
to
the Sharks the wearing of soccer shoes or something similar, but the
Chicago
players were insistent on the type of footwear chosen.
The mighty San Diego Lions took to the pristine pitch known affectionately
to the players as "Field #4" to do battle against the formidable "Pool
Team". Now the pool team was a group of players who had decided to make
themselves available to any and all teams for a run and to make up the
eighth team for the tournament. The Lions, normally very stoic and aloof,
were able loosen up enough to rout the Pool team in spite of legendary
Lions
coach and onballer Chris Stiegler kicking a single goal. Turns out it was
necessary for Stiegs to kick any goals. Seven other Lions hit for home in
the rout of the Pool team. In fact, 13 different San Diego players kicked
goals for the Lions during the course of the tournament (A new Tournament
record).

Okay, so everything was a new tournament record. It just sounds more like
an
elite accomplishment.
There were a couple of nail biters during the course of the round robin
competition. Chicago snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with an
errant
last second kick for goal during their second match of the day against the
Denver blokes and Phoenix held on to a 61-58 win against the determined
Crows. I won't disclose the identity of the kicker here (Waz).
Other notable firsts included the first career victory for the Tucson
Javelinas in their match against the Pool Team. Not wanting to leave the
victory to chance, the resolute Javs nearly doubled the Pool team's goal
kicking output. Matty Bracher and Jason "Pickle" McPherson combined for 13
of the club's 15 goals. McPherson garnered the best on ground for the match
for his efforts. Rob "Blossom" Massey connected with two more goals and ran
the entire ground with fierce determination throughout. In his jubilation,
Paul "Pablo" Thompson, the club's resident Ph.D., Irishman, Guinness
coveter
and semi-professional acrobat was thought to have been seen turning
cartwheels after their victory. After a brief tournament committee meeting,
it was determined the victory shall stand in spite of the Irishman's goofy
display of glee.
The first break in action was filled with a 30 meter kicking contest.
Entrants were given 90 seconds to kick 9 footys from three locations for
goal. Each team selected on golden-footed, pretty boy goal kicker to
represent their team. The top two kicked went on to the finals. Chris Muntz
of the LA Crows started the competition kicking for 6 points and setting
the
standard for the other contestants. Chris Stiegler posted an amazing
perfect
round as the second to last player to kick. Paul "Plugger" O'Keefe ran his
score to 9 to force a battle of the proverbial titans. In a spectacular
display of cunning and resourcefulness, Plugger demanded that the final
round be determined with left-footed kicks alone. Clearly, Plugger had
never
tagged the skillful Stiegs. Take it from me; never dare him to kick a
left-footed goal. Stiegs won the competition going away with a solid round
of kicks.

The second break exhibited the highly anticipated "Longest Chick Kick" (No
animals were harmed in the course of this particular contest) With 9 brave
and determined ladies competing, Reka Schrieber, wife of Scorp's fullback
and tournament scorekeeper Jared "Kaiser" Schrieber sent the footy far over
the heads of the astonished judges to capture the victory.

Saturday night found the teams enjoying themselves at the banquet at Four
Peaks Brewery. Lots of good food and better beer flowed throughout the
evening. An early estimate of around 50 players took advantage of the
all-you-can-eat spaghetti and 1 beer bargain. We lobbied heavily for an
all-you-can-drink beer and a plate of spaghetti with the establishment. We
wound up attempting to empty the rest of the kegs at Four Peaks. I think we
were marginally successful. All I know is that I slept quite well Saturday
night. Of course it didn't hurt that Club Social Director and Brewmaster,
Rob "Berto" McCandless provided the tournament with some of his best brew
as
a complimentary amenity to tournament participants. (Now I KNOW that's a
first...Free beer at the tourney?)

The Sunday planned curtain raiser didn't come off as planned as many
players
opted to sleep in apparently. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled start,
the
umpires outnumbered the players 6 to 4. On the subject of umpires, many
thanks to all of those who helped. You all did an outstanding job! The
all-comers curtain raiser was about the only thing that didn't go off as
planned.

The consolation match between Denver and San Diego was a difficult and hard
fought match. The Bulldogs were stubborn but were unable to overcome the
punishing Lion pressure from the centre square. Midfielder and SD Captain
Justin "Mako" McLarty led the Lions up field time and again attempting to
make up for the fact he took several cases of Stone Brewing beer out of his
car's trunk to make room for travel bags for the trip to Arizona. His
second
mistake, as near as I could tell, was to tell anyone (much less the writer
of the match report) about his folly. The Denver squad, resplendent with
pool players including James "Picket Fence" Dye and Sean "Woody" Watson
found themselves in a desperate struggle to force the ball into their
scoring zone. Big Matty Dainauski was less effective than he would have
like as his mind was to be the first on the massage table after the match.
Actually, several strong marks by the big man helped keep the Doggies
within
striking distance throughout the match.
The Grand Final was played between the host Phoenix Scorpions and the
Orange
County Bombers. The Bombers, fresh off a good night's sleep (seems they
had
a team two drink minimum imposed by the coach. Man, they just didn't get
the
objective of the tournament) dominated the first half of play. Kicking
goals early and often, the Bombers ran the Scorps deep into a hole. No
stranger to such a predicament, the Scorps fought back to regain some of
the
momentum that carried them through the first rounds of the Tournament. In
the second half the Scorpions found their stride and made a convincing run
at the Bomber's lead. The OC boys had ample opportunity to bury the
Phoenix
contingent but chose instead to run up a record number of behinds for a
grand total of 52. Many clubs are lucky to kick that many behinds in a
season, never mind a weekend tournament. If the relentless Bombers had
kicked with a little more accuracy throughout the tournament they may have
set a new World Record for percentage at roughly 3,015. In an
uncharacteristic display of teamwork, Darren "Pricilla" Toohey kicked 3 of
the Scorpions 6 pointers while feeding teammate and countryman Chucky
Hollingsworth for four more accounting for 7 of the Scorps 9 goals. First
year player and ruckman Jay "Ferris" Mueller impressed many veteran players
with his work in the ruck throughout the tournament. The fact he works for
a TV station and convinced a camera crew and total babe to come out to film
and interview some players didn't hurt either. Several Bombers stood out
through the course of the tournament icluding Jerry "Bear" Dominguez and
Donnie Lucero. Additionally, although well past his playing prime and
seriously considering hip replacement, Paul Wiggins of the Bombers blasted
5
goals to the amazement and delight of his mates. Time eventually ran out
on
the hustling Phoenix Club, and the Orange County boys notched the first
Metro Footy World Championship.

Final:

Phoenix 9-7-61

OC 14-18-102

For the Tournament, Best on Ground as well as leading goal kicker was OC
center-half forward Mark Seccull. Well done Mark!

The AZAFL would like to thank all that participated as players, officials
and spectators during this event. Each and every one of you deserves a
great
deal of credit for making this tournament so successful. Thanks!
I've sent out a survey to those who I have email addresses for to help us
make the tournament better next year. I do ask for a name and address (the
physical address is for a potential newsletter at a later date). Your name
or address is not tied in any way to your responses. (So you can really
trash me if you'd like, I'll never know) In addition, we're still trying
to
unload...er...sell the tournament shirts. Contact ArmieAnt@aol.com if
you're
interested in any of the t-shirts or embroidered items. Actually Squirrel
(Tucson Javs Prez) can take care of all of your club's embroidery needs.

Cheers,

Pops

John Meier




- John Meier
(158)

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