League play returns to Southern California
Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 06:41 am ACDT
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
2006 will see footy league play return to the OC, LA and Inland Empire with a new four-team Southern California AFL under formation. California boasted the first organised regional footy league in the USA, but has since gone through hard times - the right league structure proving elusive despite the area being home to two of the USA's traditional power clubs in Orange County and San Diego and a large local Australian population. WFN talks with Chris Olson about the new league.
The new league will kick off in February, with four teams playing. The Orange County Bombers are a familiar name for anyone following USFooty - the other three less so. LA footy is back under the title of the LA Swans, the Inland Empire are back as two teams, the IE Fire and the 351 Raiders, named after their local postal code. The old Inland Empire Eagles were one of the first all-American footy sides, but after a promising start collapsed a few seasons into the original CAFL.
Since those days the area has restructured its competitions a number of times, and Chris Olson has been present for most of this time. One project he was involved with, which created plenty of talk for and against last year, was Major League Aussie Rules, although that project has now taken a back seat to the new league.
Olson says "MLAR is still there, but SoCalFooty will be our breeding ground for MLAR. We got some interest from around the country, but when people here in LA started showing signs of growing something of consequence it made more sense for us to take a step back and lay the foundation for the game and future comps like MLAR. What we would like to do is have MLAR be a comp representative of the name, ie played at a standard worthy of the name.
"The administrative group we have assembled is the most impressive group I've worked with since I've been involved in footy here in the states. The guys are extremely committed to growing the game and everyone is on the same page. Recruiting is also at a fever pitch. We've got about 6 new players bob up for the new LA team and both Inland Empire clubs had training last Saturday (their first) with 12 players and again as many who are sorting out the work schedules to make weekend trainings.
"Inland Empire has been particularly exciting with the work of Deron Lien, Darrin Olsen and Beau Fournier. These guys have really taken ownership of the game out there and are setting the tone for the rest of the clubs. Really exciting stuff. Word has it they've recruited a former Div. 1 college basketball player who stands 7' tall. The standard ought to be surprisingly high and very competitive. I can definitely see some old rivalries renewed when the IE teams face off against LA and OC. The difference now is these rivalries will be battled out on the field only as many of the leaders of these clubs have played together with the Orange County Bombers."