Bulldogs Win "Best Ever" Nationals in Atlanta

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The Denver Bulldogs were the big winners when the world of Aussie Rules Football came to Atlanta Georgia for the Pratt Industries 2004 USAFL National Championships last weekend.

More than 600 players from 27 clubs formed a record 24 teams to play at the Atlanta Polo Club fields north of Atlanta.

Dealing with more players and teams than ever before the Atlanta club mustered not only high profile guests and corporate sponsors but also a team of volunteers that did the Peach capital of the world proud.

With 36 pool games, 3 divisional finals, 2 junior clinics and a women’s match over the two day carnival the enormous amount of planning and preparation paid off with the highest of accolades for the Atlanta Kookaburras as the best National Championships event ever staged.

Included was a real time electronic scoreboard covering all three fields and a playing surface that allowed the best skills to be displayed by every team in every division.

Atlanta have not just raised the bar for the USAFL Nationals they have catapulted it skywards.” USAFL President Mark Wheeler said.

“What we have just experienced is not only a credit to the Atlanta Kookaburras but to every club in the USAFL that made this weekend such a success.

"Thanks to Pratt Industries USA, Coopers Ale and Qantas as major sponsors of the event.”

The Denver Bulldogs overcame a tough pool draw then a hard fought encounter with # 2 seeded New York Magpies to take the Division 1 National title.

After accounting for the locals Atlanta early Saturday morning and having a tough encounter winning against Orange County by 16 points later in the day, the Bulldogs toughed it out against last years runners up the Boston Demons on Sunday morning winning by just 7 points.

The final against the New York team was tight and tough. Certainly the strengths of both backlines held sway with the ball moving back and forwards for most of the two 20 minute halves.

It wasn’t till a midway through the last half Denver gained control and went on to record a solid victory 2.6.18 to 1.1.7.

Denver has now won the title three years in a row and their fourth of the last five years.

The ever young Tom Ellis Captain of the Bulldogs took the Paul Roos Medal for Best on Ground in the final, capping off a great weekend for the Bulldogs.

Division 2 was taken out by the improving Arizona Hawks over another Hawks team, Philadelphia. Division 3 was a wide open event with a combined team from Cincinnati/Pittsburgh accounting for Kansas City/Louisville.

In attendance for this historic weekend to witness the events was the legendary Kevin Sheedy of Essendon AFL club from Australia courtesy of the Pratt Industries’ sponsorship of the tournament.
With the AFL General Manager of game development Dave Matthews a special guest and the Richmond/Collingwood great Kevin Morris looking over proceedings it shows plenty of eyes from Down Under are peering closer at the fast growing USAFL phenomena.

Spread over three fields side by side two of which with dimensions rivaling the MCG the home of footy in Australia, the championships had never been showcased in such a way and on such great arenas.

The Saturday afternoon games in mild but humid conditions thrilled the 1500 strong crowd.

Fox Footy Channel Australia was in attendance also to shoot for an upcoming documentary hosted by Tiffany Cherry, another guest very popular with the local crowd and certainly the players.

On Saturday evening at the Qantas USAFL Nationals Banquet 400 seated guests enjoyed the recollections of the days past and the wisdom of many years of experience of the great Kevin Sheedy.

The Qantas Banquet was a huge success with two excellent multi media presentations that capped off a great day and night of footy action.

When the players headed home Sunday afternoon or to the traditional Pub Crawl later in the evening all knew they had been a part of something very special.

A great footy experience deep in the South of USA and with the help of the Atlanta Kookaburras the Pratt Industries 2004 USAFL National Championships will with any doubt go down as the most successful ever.


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