Metro Footy Tournament Report

The third installment of the now world famous and envied Metro Footy tournament got underway in the same fashion as the two previous years.  Happy hour at the hotel on Friday night.  The AZAFL faithful greeted the incoming footy players and fans from all over the US and Canada.  Jon-o McClelland, Gary Lerch, Tommy Thompson and Prez Doug Lewis from New York were already acclimated to the weather.  John-o commenting that his jacket was strictly meant for fashion and was by no means a necessity.  Jeremy Morgan, Chi-Sharks VP and moral compass, was observed lounging by the pool in the early evening hours barefoot and in shorts.  He may have had a beer as well, I couldn’t be sure.


The Canadian clubs doubled their numbers this year, sending four clubs to the desert footy classic.  Three clubs consisting entirely of Canadian players (Northwinds White, Red and Black) and the Toronto Eagles made the trek south.  Pretty good, eh?  Canadian National Team Coach Greg Everett used the occasion to get a good look at the Northwinds hopefuls.


A total of seven teams out of California made the trip, with five making their first appearance at the tournament.  Returning teams were the San Diego Lions and two-time champs, OC Bombers.  The Oakland Pirates and Marin Mavericks of the GGAFL, Inland Empire Fire, Valley Vandals and Mojave Greens were the newcomers this year.  The Greens, I’m proud to say, consist entirely of US Army Soldiers stationed at Ft. Irwin, California.  As I understand it, they do two things at Ft. Irwin.  They train to defend the USA and train to play footy.  I’m told that both forms of training are done with equal enthusiasm.


The draw was rounded out with the Nashville Kangaroos (formerly known as, aw, never mind) making their second trip, the Chicago Sharks (sans the lazy Waz) who have been with us from the beginning, the ever present “Pool Team” (consisting this year of players from NY, Philly, St. Louis, Portland, not Vancouver, and Arizona) and two of the best AZAFL clubs; the Chandler Outlaws and Tucson Javelinas.  Other AZ players were liberally scattered amongst the teams low on numbers, keeping in line with the philosophy that our goal is to get to know some new mates and have a good time.


So, if you were keeping count that makes 16 teams this year.  Can you believe it?  This tournament has doubled in size in just 3 short years.  At this rate, in 2016 we’ll be up to 256 teams.  We’ll have to find a new venue of course.  We’ll keep you posted on those developments.


Speaking of developments, in a surprise merger the “Arizona Gold Desert Hybrid Bermuda Straw Grass” Company united with the Salt River Rock and Concrete Company and became the official surface for the tournament.  As far as you know.  At least the surface of the fields made it seem that way.  I reckon that’s a small trade off for not shoveling snow off your driveway.


The first of twenty-eight matches began with a tumultuous roar from the crowd as the 2004 edition of the AZAFL Metro World Invitational got underway.  Now a tournament tradition, Stephen Arnott once again did the honors with the first bounce down of the day to get the tournament started. 


First time visiting umpire Jeff Moffatt from Oregon, Jeff Persson and AZAFL Head Umpire JD Marli worked game after game under the blistering sun.  Scores of others filled in at field, goal, boundary umpire and score keepers to keep the matches going all day long.  MANY, MANY THANKS TO YOU FOLKS!


Did I mention the beer was once again free?  Yepper.  We did it again.  Many thanks to those that donated to keep it flowing.  At last count we had shared between 12 and 15 30-packs with our good friends from all over the US and Canada.  You folks are the best footy people there are!


The first rounds of matches were exciting as usual.  Also as usual, it took a few minutes for teams to shake off the rust of winter.  Most clubs hadn’t picked up a footy in weeks, since indoor footy hasn’t quite caught on yet.  Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for the tempo and skill to increase with the competition on the grounds.  Initially, many clubs fell weak to the temptation of shooting for goal straight out of the center square (circle) resulting in many turnovers and behinds.  As the day wore on, strategy and skill began to show in the manner of play.  Smarter play and sharper kicking were the result.


As the leaders began to be determined, the competitive spirit of each player began to rise through the fray.  Sure, this was to be a fun and social time for all in attendance, but we are, after all, footy players and we all want to win.  With every screaming mark taken and resounding spoil made, the level of footy rose to meet the cheers of the fans.  And fans they were, players and supporters alike, barracking for their friends of many years or just a few hours.


Here are a few high points of the first day for me.  Watching the Mojave Greens, a team started due to the love of the game by an American Army Lieutenant, play their first-ever official match and taking 2nd place in their pool.  The impressive showing of the three All-Canadian teams as they gelled as a squad during each match.  Seeing with partisan pride the two Arizona clubs rise to the top of their respective pools.  Catching up with old pals from all over the US and (now) Canada.  Watching the future of USFooty during the USFootyKids clinic.  Better than 30 kids put on a show for a couple hundred delighted onlookers.  Playing along side the eleven other pool players (we named ourselves “the Mutts”).  What a great bunch of guys.  Everyone ought to try it sometime.


The first day ended like this:

#1 Northwinds Black

#2 Northwinds White

#3 Chandler Outlaws

#4 Tucson Javelinas


And now it was off to Happy Hour and the Saturday night barbecue at the Hospitality Suites.  The ANZACC-AZ supplied some of the food and Preiss Imports and Coopers donated 10 cases of Coopers beer.  Many thanks to the clubs and players that supported the AZAFL by attending our Saturday night event.  It’s your support that helps us to continue this great event.


In the round robin play the leading goal kicker was Kevin Duffy from Northwinds Black with 12 goals (he only beat me by 12) during the round robin and three more in the semis; the best and fairest was Jason Robinson from Northwinds White.  Congratulations on the clean sweep for the boys from the north for those awards.  Canadian Matt Kidd also won the “Fastest Man in Footy” full field sprint.  Some other dude kicked the longest goal and if I find out who he was, I’ll be sure to let you know.  Odds are that he’s Canadian.


The semis on Sunday matched the NW Black v. Tucson and Chandler v. NW White at a merciful start.


How were we to know that the best footy had yet to be played?


The Chandler boys took the NW White squad by storm on field #2.  Two quick goals set the Canadian side back on their heels at the start of the first period.  Having outscored their first 3 opponents by 124 points, the NW White found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being behind.  Fueled by the thundering ruckwork of Outlaw Jason Fitzpatrick (voted best on ground for the match), Chandler marched wire to wire in this match, besting the reeling Canadian side by the score of Chandler 10.9.69 NW White 5.4.34.


On field #1 the number one seeded NW Black met the scrappy Tucson boys in what was an epic battle of skill and tenacity.  This see-saw battle was locked in a 21-all tie at the end of the first half of play.  The lack of kicking accuracy by the NW Black squad (9 behinds in the first half alone) allowed the determined Javs to stay close throughout the match.  Javelina’s Matty Bracher proved to be accurate and deadly in kicking 5 majors for the underdog club.  Kevin Duffy continued his relentless assault on the goal kicking title with three 6-pointers of his own for the Blacks cause.  Tucson on-baller Mike “Scuba” Russell was voted best on ground for his relentless efforts.  With some late match heroics the Tucson boys held on to win by the score: Tucson 6.9.45 NW Black 5.11.41.


Before the Grand Final match was played, the newest addition to the weekend was to be played, the Arizona Lady Hawks made their debut against the Orange County Bombshells, winners of the first woman’s match in USFooty history in Kansas City during Nationals.  Dave Pack had assembled and trained an eager group of Arizona (and a couple Canadian) lady footballers to take on the Bombshells.  With the exception of a no-tackle rule, the ladies took the ground under the virtually the same rules as the men.  Without exception, the women played every bit as hard as the men’s sides.  The kicking and crumbing for the loose pill was rough and furious on both teams.  Great passages of play entertained the crowds as the Bombshells slowly took charge of the match.  The OC ladies won buoyed by the play of ruckman Katherine Hogg and on-baller Leigh Swansborough.  Melissa Armstrong and Shannon White were stand-outs on the Lady Hawks side.  Final score OC 3.7.25 def. AZ 0.3.3


Time for the All Arizona Finalito Grande had finally arrived.  Both clubs had worked long and hard to earn their place in the Grannie.  The uncertainty of unknown players would not be a factor in this match.  Strengths and weaknesses were known and would be exploited.  The Chandler team came out as is their fashion, flooding forward, picking up crumbs and shooting for goals.  Tucson was able to match the physical manner of play but couldn’t get to the crumbs, thus limiting their chances at goals in the first half.  Darren Toohey converted two of his 4 goals in the first half leading the charge for the relentless Outlaws.  Javelina Matty Bracher continued to make the most of every opportunity sending 5 more majors through the posts in this match.  In the end, the battered and bruised Javs couldn’t keep up with the Outlaws onslaught.  Chandler ran out winners on the day and the tournament by a score of Chandler 8.6.54 Tucson 6.4.40. 


Congratulations to the Outlaws on their well earned victory.


Okay, here’s where I thank everyone for all they did, so keep on reading, they deserve your thanks as well.


To JD for taking on the thankless task of umpire coordination and webmaster duties.

To Stephen, Jeff M. & Jeff P. for umpiring about 12 games apiece, again.

To the rest of you folks that umpired, kept time, matchsheets, scoreboards etc.

To Sarah Palumbo for taking care of the concession stand, again.

To Donger for doing everything that no one else wanted to do.

To Matty Bracher for scoring us the great hotels and barbecue

To Henry Preiss of Preiss Imports for the Coopers beer and gear

To Floyd for believing in this nutty idea in the first place.

To Denis Ryan for running that great USFootyKids clinic.

To Maria Acosta and Mike Chamberlain of Action Shot Photos for taking a chance on coming down here to get some good shots of everyone. Go to their web site and buy a picture!  They’re great!  C’mon, if everyone buys just one…

To all the players, coaches, supporters, groupies and umpires for making this the most fun tournament in the Northern Hemisphere (that should cover everyone I might have missed)

Most of all to Tournament Director, Brad “Porkchop” Palumbo for doing the work of ten men so that all you folks would have a GREAT time!


See ya next year!



John Meier

- John Meier

Posted in 
Watch AFL