"Year of the Lion" in 2006 - why and what does 2007 hold?

Tuesday, January 02 2007 @ 05:36 am ACDT

Contributed by: Christopher P. Adams, Ph.D.

In USFooty 2006 was the year of the Lion. The San Diego Lions completed an undefeated season by dispatching perennial champions the Denver Bulldogs at the USFooty National Championship Tournament in Las Vegas on October 8. Their year began well with 11 players (5 Australians and 6 Americans) representing the club in the first ever Australia-Revolution game for G'Day LA Week in early January. With that initial start, the San Diego Lions web page predicted: "2006 will be the Year of the LION". The club went on to defeat the Dallas Magpies and Golden Gate Roos, before winning the first Western Regional Tournament in San Pedro, CA with wins over the Arizona Hawks, the Orange County Bombers and the Denver Bulldogs, defeating Orange County in a home and away series and then hosting and winning the second Western Regional Tournament with wins over Denver, Las Vegas Gamblers, and Orange County. Their home stretch was a win over the Dallas Magpies and then going undefeated at the USFooty National Championship Tournament in Las Vegas with wins over the Golden Gate Roos, the Boston Demons, the Milwaukee Bombers and defeating the Denver Bulldogs 33 to 12 in the National Championship game.

At the start of the new century the Lions had been one of the dominant clubs in the US putting their stamp on the competition by playing in three National Championship games between 2000 and 2002 and taking the 2001 USFooty Nationals in Washington DC. However, the years since 2002 have been relatively quite. While still a force to be reckoned with they have not been dominant in the Nationals. According to Lions President Brendan McDonald, the club took some time to develop its metro league, its sponsors and social side. Things turned around on the field with good performances in 2005. Things went well enough for former Boston Demons Head Coach and Revolution Assistant Coach, Scott Nicholas to be returned for the 2006 season.

The Lions were led once again by their old guard of Cameron Trickey and Andy Scott. Cameron Trickey (O'Brien) debuted for Collingwood in 1985 and played in the half back line for the very first game of the Brisbane Bears in 1986. In 2006 he hit the big Four O but age hasn't stopped him from being one of the best players in USFooty. Both Trickey and Scott represented the Australian Ex-Pat team in the game against the Revos in January. However, according to McDonald, "I think sometimes opposing teams can give Cammo, Andy and others too much credit for us winning games and possibly overlook some of our lesser known or newer players. We have been extremely lucky in having a great nucleus of Aussie players that have been here for a few years, however I still don't believe you can win a National Title without good Americans either and I think if you asked anyone that played for Denver in the past 4 or 5 years they would tell you the same thing." The Lions managed to recruit former Macquarie University Scholarship winner, Justin Valley. Big Justin was a dominant force at Full Forward and Center Half Forward for the Lions in 2006. Against the Dallas Magpies, Valley piled on a very impressive six goals for the Lions. Valley's season was good enough to win the San Diego Best and Fairest, an honor he shared with McDonald.

The Lions brought 37 players to Las Vegas to compete in the Nationals. This allowed Nicholas' coaching staff to have its pick of the best for each game, with the rest playing in a combined team in Division III. McDonald credits a successful Metro League, a new website and the development of a "footy club" atmosphere. "The re-vamping of our website has been a success in itself but has definitely helped us attract more players and keep in contact with them. And I think one of the major factors has been our ability to function as much like a football club in Australia as we can, compared to just putting a team on the field on a Saturday. By that I mean we have been able to get some venues happy to let us have social functions regularly, thus getting wives and girlfriends involved, even kids so that coming to the footy has been a lot of fun for everyone involved. The Lions Ladies played a big part in our success this year!"

So what is in store for 2007? Will it be the Year of the Lion? Will the Bulldogs be back to reclaim their regular place at the top of the USFooty ladder. Who are the other contenders? The Golden Gate Roos have not quite been good enough but seem to be improving. The club had the honor of sending James Lamont to Sydney on the Macquarie University Scholarship. In the Mid-west, the Milwaukee Bombers have a young team that is itching to go one better than the Mid-American Premiership. The team loses two of its best Americans in the Brunmeier brothers but will probably host a West Perth Falcon or two. Further south, the Dallas Magpies were not good enough to win the MAAFL but were one of the few teams to compete with the Lions in 2006. On the East Coast, the Boston Demons and New York Magpies will again be battling it out for the Eastern Australian Football League Premiership. Can my home team, the young Baltimore Washington Eagles take the step from Division II National Champions into Division I following the likes of the New York Magpies and the Milwaukee Bombers? I don't know about you but I can't wait for the 2007 USFooty season to kick off. Happy New Year!

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