US-AFL Central Regional Tournament – Indianapolis
23 blokes made the journey to Indianapolis for our second tournament of the season, the US-AFL Central Regionals. The Denver Bulldogs team consisted of a mixture of players with half Division 1 players, half seconds players and 1 rookie.
The Denver Bulldogs were ranked in the Division 1 Group with the Austin Crows, Dallas Magpies and Columbus Jackaroos; and were expected to do well since winning the Des Moine 80/35 Tournament 4 weeks earlier. The tournament would be a round-robin with teams playing each other once, and the team with the most wins and highest percentage would take home the title of Central Regional Champions.
The forecast for Saturday 11 June, was for the low 90s with high humidity and bright blue skies. All teams would be challenged playing 3 games in these hot conditions.
Denver Bulldogs v Dallas Magpies at 11am
Lez was captain for the day, and won the first toss, electing to kick with a strong breeze. He would go on to win the toss for all 3 games and elect to kick with a strong 2-goal breeze each game.
Dallas got the jump on the Bulldogs early with Pony in the ruck and Phil would be challenged. Oscar was important in defense, playing in front and clearing the ball several times. The Magpies seemed to be all around the ground with cleaner disposals and kicked the first goal and a couple of points.
Matty was roving around the wings and collecting possessions, moving the ball forward with Azza and Michio in the middle too. The Doggies had several inside 50’s but it wasn’t until the 10th minute mark, a Dallas defensive clearance was marked by Brian in the middle and bombed back into a forward contest. Garcia kept his feet, roved like a little fella, and gave clean hands to Grippa, who snapped the Bulldogs first goal, to lift the team.
Dallas were quick to move the ball out of the middle and scored their second major against the wind. The Doggies lifted around the ground and hit their targets with Brian taking another mark at center half forward and kicking the Doggies second major. The tide was starting to shift and momentum was on the Bulldogs side. From the ball-up, Lez created another great center clearance with a long bomb deep into the forward 50. Nick gathered the loose ball, hand passes to Tyler, and laid a great shepherd, so Tyler could kick Denver’s 3 goal and into the lead. Just as the half time siren sounded.
Halftime scores: Denver 3.0.18 Dallas 2.2.14
Dallas had wind and moved ball fast. Dallas inaccurate kicking out on the full and points and 2 goals. Bulldogs struggled against the wind to move ball past center, so the forward line pushed up. A quick rebound out of the backline led to Bayden goal. Doggies 4.0.24 Dallas 4.5.29
Ball came in a couple more times, Matty marked, but missed. Doggies down by 4 points. Dallas moved ball down forward, luckily only managing 2 points, to lead by one straight kick. Doggies moved the ball quickly down forward and Tyler took a 1 hand mark while fending off the defender with his other. Straight kicking resulting in a major to level scores with 1 minute to go.
Quick clearance out of the center moved the ball down forward for one final push, after a marking contest, Tyler gathered the ball, deep in the pocket and as he handballed to Matty, open in front of goal, the final siren sounded. Matty kicked another point but it would not count and the game would end a draw.
Final Scores: Denver 5.1.31 Dallas 4.7.31
Goals: Tyler 2, Nick 1, Grippa 1, Bayden 1
Denver Bulldogs v Austin Crows at 2pm
Denver started great with Phil dominating the ruck, great center clearances and forward movement. However, it took until the 8th minute mark for Azza to kick a goal in play. A minute later Azza kicked another goal bouncing along the ground around 2 defenders. Not to be out done, kicking against the wind, Austin moved the ball quickly out of Denver’s forward line down the wing, which resulted in Austin’s first goal.
Harko had great influence in setting up Denver’s counter attack off half. He took many intercept marks and played on to give the Doggies forwards several chances. Another veteran, Oscar was a great support with several clearances. Scott C prevented his man from touching the bull and busted several packs too.
Bulldogs had plenty of the ball and looked good, with Tyler kicking his first major for the game during play. In possibly the best play off the day, Matty was running into goal 25 meters out, only to be confronted by an Austin defending, and in a moment of brilliance, Matty hand-passed the footy into the air, running past the defendner, caught his own pass to run into an open goal and kick Denver’s 4th goal and cement a great lead going into the second half.
Half-time score: Denver 4.3.27 Austin 1.0.6
The Doggies were kicking into the wind and would be tested. Within the first 2 minutes the Doggies moved the ball forward resulting in a marking contect. McVickers gathered the ball and rugby passed to Bayden, who kicked the first goal of the second half and stretch the lead to 4 goals. The Doggies looked good.
Austin started to get more of the ball and kicking with a 2-goal breeze allowed them to long bomb balls into their forward half. The Bulldogs backline including the Posie’s, Scott C, John, Garth, Harko and Oscar would be tested. 8 minutes in, Austin managed 2 quick majors and started to lift. And Austin was only down by 2 goals. Grippa kept presenting with strong leads on the forward flank, as the forward line pushed up because the ball was dropping short kicking into the wind.
Pressure intensified in the last 10 minutes and there was persistent stoppages in Austin’s forward half. With Denver’s midfield – Michio, Lez, Phil, Azza and Scott C – and defenders fighting hard, they would clear the ball to the center, but Austin would gather the loose ball and bomb it back into their forward line using the wind resulting in 3 goals and an 8 point lead.
The Doggies never gave up and one final push and clearance out of the centre allowed fast movement forward with minutes to go. Grippa gathered the loose ball in the forward pocket, giving quick hands to Nate who goaled. The Doggies were down by only 2 points with 1 minute to go. Austin bogged down the final center clearance and their defensive tactics stalled the ball until the final siren sounded.
Final score: Denver 6.3.39 Austin 6.5.41
Goals: Tyler 1, Aaron 2, Matty 1, Nate 1, Bayden 1
Game 3: Denver Bulldogs v Columbus Jackaroos at 5:30pm
After 2 games in the 90 degree temps and high humidity, it would be hard for the Doggies to come up again. But with the desire to win one game, after a draw and 2-point loss for the day, the Dogs would run it out. Several changes were made to the line up with some mid-field veterans moving to forward flanks, a couple of the defenders to the forward line and some forwards to the backline, plus a few rotation changes across the wings and thru the midfield.
The Bulldogs go off to a good start again with Phil in the ruck and center clearances. Michio received handball on forward flank, ran around a few defenders and kicked the Doggies first from 40 out with a tail wind. The balled continually ebbed and flowed back and forth as both teams moved the ball well. Kicking with a 2-goal breeze, the ball was bombed into the forward line and Tyler kicked off the ground for Denver’s second major. In reply, Columbus did manage to move the ball quick with clear hands and their tall forward marked resulting in their first major.
The quality US-AFL umpiring would continue into the third game as Bayden and his defender contested a mark at center half forward. Bayden, playing from behind, punched the ball away from a defenders hands, and marked it, without the defender ever touching the ball, yet the umpire called it a Columbus mark. Jeff Posey, was switched to the forward line and attacked the ball from center clearances several times, and his hard work paid off with snapping a point. Unfortunately the Doggies kicked 4.2 in the first half to 3 straight by Columbus with their giant forward marking and goaling on 3 separate occasions.
Half-time score: Denver 4.2.26 Columbus 3.0.18
With only an 8 point lead and Columbus kicking with the wind, the Bulldogs would have to dig deep in the last half of the last game of the day. Harko started as a lose sweeper in the backline and this proved very successful. Nate moved into the backline too, and busted several packs on the back flank, combining with Snowball on the wing who moved the ball forward. Tyler presented well, took great contested marks and goals. Jared was terrific on the other flank/wing shepherding and supporting team mates too.
Columbus did not give up, since they were quacking with the wind and it would go goal for goal until the final siren. Mich contributed to each of the Bulldogs final 3 goals playing on the forward flank. Garcia took a great strong mark late, and goaled, giving the Doggies a lead of 2 points. Then Aaron received a hand pass from Tyler in the goal square that would “seal” the 8 point victory with 2 minutes to go.
Final score: Denver 7.2.44 Columbus 6.0.36
Goals: Tyler 3, Bayden 1, Michio 1, Nick 1, Azza 1
The Doggies are now 100% focused on their next major tournament of the year: The Western Regionals in Portland, OR. Facing tough competition from Orange County and Los Angeles, the Dogs are working ferociously at training for the next month to ensure we come home as the major victors this time around. Stay tuned for more details of this tournament, taking place on July 16th.