Contributed by: Troy Thompson
The Dallas Magpies have been the only club in Texas to last more than a few seasons to date, with repeated efforts to start regular footy in Houston, San Antonio and Austin failing to build lasting clubs. 2006 may be the turning point - with a Houston side playing matches and interested parties trying to get the Austin and San Antonio sides back from hibernation. However, a lot of hard work remains to be done - WFN takes a look at where Texas footy could be headed.
Not all the signs are positive for footy in Texas, but overall it looks as if the future could be bright. About this time last year we were saying the same sort of things about the bright future of footy in Florida and we have seen things take a backward step there this year. But having a long established and stable club like the Dallas Magpies there directing development will hopefully make all the difference.
The Magpies have had a big turnover in player numbers this year with around 25 of their list hanging up the boots after the 2005 season. The playing list of around 55 this year has dropped to around 40 with an influx of new players coming from the spring metro-footy competition and Dallas’ extensive public service announcement free radio advertising. The spring league running from March to April is played under a reduced numbers touch footy format and draws regularly about 25 players. In addition to the free radio ads the club has recently spent around $2000 on advertisements on ESPN radio to draw players initially to their summer competition and ultimately to the Magpies MAAFL squad, the club has had a number of follow up enquiries as well as sign ups.
The Magpies played Baton Rouge early in the year and started the season with a big win over the Tigers. Despite having had a big 2005 season in the MAAFL as league champions, and then the early win against Baton Rouge, they were about to be bought back to earth. The next two games brought a loss to Milwaukee away and to San Diego at home. The ‘extra curricular’ game against San Diego was thrown into the schedule this year to provide the Magpies with another quality home game. The club was looking to get the benefits with sponsors and media of having more home games to boost the clubs revenues and profile and get more supporters out to watch the team at home. The club was quite prepared to take this on even though such a loss may hurt them overall when it comes to rankings come the Nationals in October. Club Vice President Daniel Russo reminded us that “We have to play San Diego again in San Diego in September, so maybe we can make up for the loss then!”
Things have picked up for the club in the last couple of weeks though, defeating Atlanta in Atlanta and this weekend beating both Houston and Baton Rouge in a three way clash in Baton Rouge. They will be looking to continue this form over the next few weeks with two more home games against Cincinnati and St Louis in MAAFL fixtures.
One disappointing aspect for the club is the cancelling of the Lone Star Cup this year. In the past it has been contested by Texan teams and has also been supported by Kansas City. This year it had been hoped that Houston and Austin would have teams ready to compete but this was not the case, and with Kansas City unable to commit it was not feasible to go ahead.
As for the potential of footy in other parts of the state, the promise is there but putting it together is not straightforward. Russo and the Magpies are very keen to help get the other big Texan cities up and running footy-wise. They know that their own success as a club will only flourish from more home games and closer away games that can be played in a season.
Houston’s initial response this year was very impressive with big numbers initially turning out for the club’s first kick in the park, but follow up numbers have been disappointing for the organising committee there. It has been a struggle for them to raise enough numbers to compete this past weekend in Baton Rouge, but they did manage to put together a squad and put themselves on the scoreboard, albeit in two losses. The scoreline was of little importance to the club which hopes it can use this debut to go onwards and upwards, with aims of playing at the Nationals in Las Vegas this year.
In addition, the Houston club (the naming of the club as the Houston Outback, Outbacks or Outbackers still under discussion internally) have already conducted a very successful school clinic at Escamilla Elementary School with multiple classes of sixth graders over a full day. They received some great testimonials from the school teacher and organised a follow up clinic for the kids on a Saturday after a number of the kids who participated wanted more. The school has reported back to the guys that in the following sports sessions that the kids wanted more footy and organised their own games with balls the club left behind for them.
Austin seemed like it might be able to quickly recover to being a footy town again after some past activity there, but have been unable to get enough numbers to play at this stage. But, things are still stirring there and Russo met with club officials there last week to discuss the way forward, and with the Houston debut as inspiration we may see them in action in 2006 after all. If they can raise the numbers it has been mooted that Dallas and Houston may be able to travel there to play them to kick start things, and (although still a way off) the club would see itself heading to Las Vegas in October also if the numbers can be raised.
San Antonio is the other city that the Magpies would love to see have a team. There were moves made there in the past that never lasted, including a group in Seguin just outside San Antonio that never quite made it (their website can still be seen at http://www.geocities.com/seguinfooty). At the moment only the most preliminary moves have been made with the few known people keen on footy there, and it doesn’t look likely they will have any footy there this year, but if three sides are up and running in Texas by the end of this year that could be motivation enough to develop a fourth for 2007.
The clash in Baton Rouge this past weekend received some nice coverage with an article in The Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper (article can be viewed here) and significant local television coverage of the event.
World Footy News