Presidents Report on Nationals

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The 2003 Coopers National Australian Football Championships saw over 24 teams from coast to coast compete in the two-day tournament, with over 1000 spectators witnessing Australian football at its best.. 


The Coopers National championships were held once again in Kansas, where locals thought a tornado had landed. Not at all! It was the 600+ players here to fight it out for the rights and honor for three divisonal champions.


The Westin hotel was again the major hotel sponsor for the event and the guys flooded the downstairs lobby area on the Friday night to have the annual chat with fellow football mates, who once a year get a chance to catch up.

By Midnight the place was full, the hotel staff kept busy, and the boys were consuming some Coopers beer - " the only real Australian Beer available in the USA". 

A representative from Coopers Brewery from Australia made the flight to see where their sponsorship money goes. Terry made a point to go around the room a few times to teach the local guys how to drink Coopers properly- give him something, he was still going strong at the end of the night- must be a true Aussie bloke!


Standing at the back and listening into some tales as the beer consumption flowed was entertaining. With some stories like " how good a year I have had", to the " That side, na their pretenders mate, won't even kick a goal against us, to the most surprising chatter about the heavenly beds which the Westin Hotel is renowned for!

Bunch of footballers wearing no pads and talking about how soft and warm the beds were, are these guys really the footballers? You bet! Once it came down to game day the small talk was forgotten, mouth guards were put in, and the pillows left in the rooms! These guys were here to prove who is the best of the best in the US and game day was here, finally! 


The weather was once again going to prove that she was in control on the first day's play. It started out alright in the wee hours when the sun was coming through on the magical grounds that Jackson County parks had prepared, to letting go with a bellow load of rain by lunchtime...Am I back in Melbourne? Surely I had thought so, with the weather and the consumption of meat pies, pasties, sausage rolls and Australian lollies with all the players wives, girlfriends behind the concession stands! Lollies means " Candy", and the guys flocked to the Cadbury Tim Tams- famous Aussie biscuits, and other chocolate bars! But this had a different feel about it, an American feel with the backdrop at the grounds showing the true meaning of Fall... 


Saturday saw the teams fight out two games each and the three divisions had set themselves with some front runners, but overall competitive games were being played at a high standard with the Burley footballs getting a working out- as they grounds were all 160 long x 120 wide and the ball was moving back and forth at a steady rate.


With visiting AFL umpires, Adrian Panozzo and Stuart Wenn, the standard of umpiring and the professionalism that they brought with them, it passed onto the the local USAFL umpires to make for a record of no reports! 33 games of footy and no reports? This wouldn't happen back in Australia! Just gives credit to the local guys on how professional they are taking this game in the USA.


I got to spend a little time with both Panoz and Weny and they were very impressed with the standard of play within the three divisions, but overall I think we got their attention about the footy in the USA. Gone are the thoughts of ex-pat Aussie's trying to just get a game a footy, this is well on it's way of being professional in their eyes! They want back in 2004, and we want them back!   


The dinner function Saturday night allowed Adrian to get up and say a few words on the efforts he had witnessed since landing Thursday, Weny added a few funny one liners, woke the crowd up and the night finished before 10pm. Is this really Australian football? In bed early and drink limits, no one sitting at the bar until closing hours and being told to leave at least ten times? Yes, they are serious about the game and having three divisions where everyone thinks they have a chance of winning.


Sunday was played in perfect weather conditions in front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd with over a thousand people sitting around the grounds- reminded me of my days at the West Gippsland Grand Finals where footy is at grass level and the crowd vocal.

Saturday also show cased a juniors clinic ran by USfooty Kids Director, Denis Ryan, and launched the first ever women's match to be played in the USA. The  Orange County "BOMBSHELLS" took on the " ALL COMERS" team and convincingly took honors after a very entertaining and skillful game. The crowd, three to four deep, were cheering in the first five minutes just because they are blokes, to really cheering by games end for the skills the women posses. 


By lunch time the food was almost gone, the Coopers beer was flowing (through the watchful eyes of the sheriff's department) and six grand Final teams had been produced to play off in the three divisional finals.


Filming had started, Ian Dicker President of the Hawthorn Football club from the AFL had arrived to witness some very entertaining football and the" voice of the west" was booming over the ground. Ian left with many praises on the efforts we are all producing in the USA and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of teams with no or just a few Aussie's skill levels. With less than 30% Australians now playing the game the USA invasion has started to happen. 

The Denver Bulldogs once again made short work of their Division I Grand Final opponents in the 2003 Coopers Australian Football Championships played recently in Kansas City.  Last year it was the San Diego Lions that felt the bite of the Bulldogs’ ferocious attack and suffocating defense, this year it was the Boston Demons turn to lick their wounds. When it was all said and done, Denver had run out easy winners, 8-5-53 to Boston’s 1-3-9.

Denver forward Benny Harling was dominant all day in the final and easily took out the MVP award for the match. Bulldogs’ big man, Matt Dainauski, and Dave Thurmond from the Orange County Bombers, shared the Best and Fairest Award for the tournament. Boston's George Lakomy was named Division I’s most consistent player.

In Division II, last year’s runners up became this year’s champions when the Milwaukee Bombers flew past the Golden Gate squad 4-2-25 to 3-1-19. This was easily the closest and most exciting match of finals day and well won by the Bombers. Milwaukee’s Jared Brunmeier was outstanding for the blood and black and was named MVP for the Grand Final. Milwaukee’s Ross Seigal was named Best and Fairest for the tournament, while Michael Waller of Baltimore/Washington was named the most consistent player for Division II.

In Division III, it was the host side’s turn to record a popular victory in front of the home town spectators. The Kansas City Power, with the help of some players from the New York Magpies, crushed a confident North Carolina Tigers side 6.7 (43) to 0.3 (3).

Power center half-forward and team captain Mark Scott was marking and scoring at will during the match and was named Most Valuable Player for the final. Scotty has played well over 100 games of footy in the U.S. and this was clearly his finest moment. KC rover Matt Seuling controlled  the centre and was by far Kansas City's   best player, which easily won him Best and Fairest for the tournament.  Martin Coventry of North Carolina was named the most consistent player for Division III over the course of the tournament.

The tournament also featured the play by play skills of well known Australian footy announcer, Rockin’ Rod “Griller” Grljusich. Rod entertained the large crowds both days with his clever commentary. As a special feature, Rod’s commentary will accompany all the Grand Final matches to be featured on the upcoming 2003 Tournament DVD, soon to be available  through the usfootystore 

Talented director, Russ Hadley, once again had his Third Eye Productions crew covering all the action from three elevated towers around the Grand Final ground.  


Congratulations to all the players, supporters, officials and volunteers who made the trip. Everyone won just by showing up. It was a great tournament and weekend put on by USFooty and the Kansas City Power Football Club.  USAFL Board  members are to be commended on a job well done, as this is months of planning to a tee.  The added support and efforts from the AFL in the 2003 season has allowed us to continue to grow in strength and numbers and we would like to thank and acknowledge them.


Great thanks to Andrea Caesar , John Meier, Mark Wheeler, Travis Statlander, Kirk Kirkpatrick and those at USFooty who worked so hard to make the weekend a success. But now there is Coopers beer to drink and barbecue to be devoured , as I still live in Kansas with toto. 


- Mark Wheeler

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