Nationals 2005 Wrap Up

Denver Reigns Supreme; Milwaukee Puts on a Hell of a Show

The Denver Bulldogs still reign supreme in Aussie Rules Football after their victory in the Division 1 Grand Final in last weekend’s 2005 USAFL National Championships held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The victory epitomized Denver’s sheer dominance of the sport, having now secured an unprecedented fourth consecutive Division 1 Championship, and their fifth of the last six years.

The ninth annual USAFL National Championships commenced under ample sunshine, autumn colors, and warm weather at the Milwaukee Polo Fields.  Twenty-four teams competed in three divisions according to their national rankings and league titles.  Three women’s teams also faced off against each other in the first ever women’s tournament at the USAFL Championships.  Junior clinics were also held at the tournament and were the culmination of efforts by Denis Ryan of USFootyKids and Aussie Legend Grilla who had traveled to several Milwaukee area schools during the week performing clinics and introducing students to footy.

Unparalleled local media coverage for the National Championships, generated through the assistance of Core Creative, had brought thousands of spectators out for the Australian food and beverages, merchandise, and football.  Also in attendance to see first-hand how footy is played in the United States was the first pick of the NBA draft, Andrew Bogut.  Providing first-rate entertainment on the weekend was the award-winning University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee panther dance team, which performed before and during the Division 1 Grand Final.

On Saturday evening at the Accenture National Championships Banquet ... Wisconsin Tailgate Style, over 400 guests enjoyed dinner with a live performance by the Australian Duo of Pru Clearwater and Tom Mason.  At the banquet, New York Magpie player Shane Batty won the USAFL Raffle Grand Prize - a 2005 Harley-Davidson XL-Custom Sportster worth over $10,000!  On Sunday evening, many players and supporters headed to Sharkey’s Bar and Grill to celebrate or commiserate at the Sharkey’s 2005 Nationals Premiership Party.

The Division 1 Grand Final was epitomized as David versus Goliath with the home team Milwaukee Bombers taking on the three-time reigning premiers, the Denver Bulldogs.  Denver has set the standard for Aussie Rules Football for years and was the tournament favorite entering the National Championships.  Milwaukee, meanwhile, has steadily improved their program over the years moving up from Division 3 only three year’s back.  All odds were against Milwaukee, however, with both the blessing and burden of hosting the Championships and the reality that underdogs rarely prevail.  In what was a very physical and entertaining Grand Final, Denver extended their supremacy as the league’s finest and has proven to be a team for the ages.

The Golden Gate Roos faced off against the Philadelphia Hawks in the Division 2 Grand Final.  Golden Gate was no stranger to Grand Finals, having played in four over the past seven years, although with the dubious distinction of going 0-4 in those matches.  This was the second consecutive appearance in the Grand Final for Philadelphia, after falling just short last year.  In convincing fashion, Golden Gate ran away with the cup while at the same time exorcising past demons and removing that immense monkey off their back.

The Division 3 Grand Final pitted the tournament sentimental favorite, the Baton Rouge Tigers, against the upstart Minnesota Freeze.  Minnesota had only had a handful of players on their roster this time last year, but intensive recruiting and development throughout the year had paid off with their surprising run.  On the other hand, Baton Rouge’s undying passion to play in Milwaukee, in what was a distraction from the chaos suffered at home by Hurricane Katrina, had guided them to the Championship game.  In what would come down to the final minute of the match, Minnesota scored to take the cup home. 

The first ever women’s match to be played in the United States was held at the 2003 National Championships in Kansas City, Missouri.  Since then, women’s teams have been forming throughout the country and have reached a significant milestone with the first women’s tournament in Milwaukee.  The historic Grand Final was won by Atlanta over Florida in a game that will be recounted for years to come. 

In reflecting upon this year’s National Championships, some have used the words “best ever” to describe the weekend in Milwaukee.  Whether that is true or not may be debatable, however, it only confirms how great this weekend is for the players and supporters of Aussie Rules across the United States.  Thanks go out to all that were a part of the tournament in Milwaukee and made the premier event a rousing success.

- Andy Ciganek

Posted in 
Watch AFL