In a situation that might feel eerily similar to 1992 when the West Coast Eagles first removed the premiership cup from Victoria, the Doha Kangaroos have defied all odds and pinched the AFL Middle East flag. Not only does it represent the first premiership for the Doha Kangaroos, which in itself is a wonderful achievement, but it is the first time the premiership cup has left the United Arab Emirates.
The final scores saw the Doha Kangaroos 13. 5 (89) defeat the Dubai Dragons 8. 9 (57).
Going into the game, history was largely working in the Dragon’s favour. Recent wins against the Kangaroos, including last year’s grand-final, the emotion of a possible three peat for the Dragons and the Kangaroo’s own demons after losing last year meant that Doha would need to surmount enormous odds. And they did.
This Friday, March 28th, the OSN AFLME 2013/14 Grand Final will be played at The Sevens Pitch in Dubai featuring the Dubai Dragons and the Doha Kangaroos in a replay of last year’s premiership match. A Middle Eastern rivalry is now brewing between these clubs, and both are keen to rewrite their own history books on the day.
As the weather heats up again across the region, a top temperature of high twenties is expected, and will certainly test the fitness of both teams. The 1pm starting time will place the game at the hotter part of the day, and whichever team handles the conditions better may well win out on the day.
With just three games to be played in the home and away rounds for 2013/4, the AFL Middle East competition is beginning to take on an air of a Dragon three peat. Whilst the Doha Kangaroos are certainly in a position to spoil the Dragon’s party, there is something quite compelling which says the Dragons are on the cusp of something special.
With the Dubai Dragons having completed their six home and away games, it falls on the other teams to scramble for positions over coming weeks. The Dragons managed to win five of their six encounters, many by large margins. Their only blemish was a shock loss to fellow Dubai team, the Dingoes. At the moment the Dragons hold firm on top of the ladder.
As the Australian Rules footy season comes to its winter recess across the countries of the Middle East, it is a time to reflect on what is fast becoming a five team race to the finish line. Earlier this year World Footy News updated the progress after the first couple of games, but much has happened since then to give all teams hope for the season which recommences on 17th January.
After Round Two, the Dubai Dragons had won both of their clashes and were odds on to run off with the competition, leaving the other clubs to squabble over the crumbs. Things have changed quite substantially since then.
Whether he knows it or not, Abu Dhabi footballer Ali Anmed Alhosani might be the catalyst of change in Middle Eastern Australian Rules football. This season Ali has become the first player born in the United Arab Emirates to play for a club in that country. The Abu Dhabi Falcons selected the 19 year old to play this season, effectively opening the door the more native born players.
Not only does Ali have a good football mind, but after interviewing him this week it is clear that he is one bright cookie with ideas that may influence the future of the game in the region.
His background is very interesting. “I am a 19 year old Emirati local, born and raised in Abu Dhabi. I completed my high school in Melbourne. I am also an independent visual artist, passionate long boarder, and a very good soccer player, but being a visual artist is what I'm known about most.”
Only hours after touching down at Dubai International Airport, after a gruelling 13 hour flight, the Port Adelaide Power players were straight into the grind of pre-season training, putting aside any thoughts of the heat, travel lag or hotel rooms. Such is the magnitude and potential value of this pre-season initiative that newly named rookies have already joined their team mates in Dubai, barely 12 hours after joining the club.
Whilst players have since had the chance to visit the attractions and markets of Dubai, and some even getting in a bit of golf, shopping and dining, the focus of the trip has been improved stamina, resilience and fitness and that began almost immediately the players arrived in the United Arab Emirates.
There is something truly ominous brewing in the Middle East. Whilst the new 2013/14 season is only three games old, with Round 2 completed last week, it is the Dubai Dragons who are out of the blocks like a veritable Speedy Gonzales inviting all other teams to catch them if they are to be stopped from winning three flags in succession.
Granted, there is a long way to go. This year’s format for the AFL Middle east draw sees eight rounds, with each team playing six matches. There is plenty of time for some teams to fall away, others to come alive or upsets to occur. But therein lays one of the pointers to the season. Of the three games played, the Dragons have played two of them…for two wins.
With comfortable wins by 58 points against the Muscat Magpies and 51 points against the Abu Dhabi Falcons, the Dragons have two wins already from their 6 matches. They also play these two teams again of their remaining four. Statistically, it will already be difficult to peg them back.
Adelaide based AFL club, the Port Adelaide Power, will embark on a 9 day trip to the United Arab Emirates as part of their pre-season training schedule for the 2014 campaign. The team will leave Australia on 24th November and return on the 4th December.
The trip will take the club to Dubai, where they will use the excellent facilities at the Dubai Sports Centre, which are considered to be amongst the best in the Middle East.
According to the Port Adelaide High Performance Manager, Darren Burgess, on the club website “the facilities at the Dubai Sports City are world class, so it’s a really good combination of a top line performance centre and hot conditions, plus a great chance for the boys to get away again.
In response to our recent article which explored the changes to AFL Middle East for the upcoming season, new Operations Manager, Tyron (Ty) Farrell has provided World Footy News with his preview of the upcoming season. Not only does Ty look again at changes to the organisation, he also provides his unique insight into the teams and their prospects.
So the 2013/2014 AFL Middle East Season is almost upon us and the teams have been hitting the pre- season trail pretty hard over the summer in anticipation.
This year the season has made a few major changes with Walid Melhem stepping down as Operations Manager as he moved back to Australia with work. Walid worked extremely hard over the last few years and should be proud of the work that he has done in getting the league to where it is today. From all in the region, we wish Walid all the best for his return to Australia and we look forward to continuing to build on the foundations that he left us.
As the footy seasons across Australia, Asia, the Americas and Europe begin to wind down, another competition is just starting to kick into top gear. The AFL Middle East 2013/14 competition is about the get under way next month, and there is something fresh and new about the whole competition.
Maybe it is just the effect of their brand new website at afl-me.com, revamped and looking a treat. Already the teams across the region are locking into a pre-season program of Grand Final breakfast functions (the Australian AFL), or the glamour of Melbourne Cup celebrations. But it is on the playing fields of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar where the action is starting to happen.
Teams have already been in their pre-season training mode since July. The Dubai Dragons preparing to go for their own three-peat and win a third flag in a row. The Doha Kangaroos are planning and training to go one step better this season and grab a flag. The Dubai Dingoes, winners of last year’s pre-season AFL 9’s tournament, are wanting to get away to another good start and this time keep it going to the last match of the year. The Abu Dhabi Falcons and Muscat Magpies are also keen to put last season behind them and push for glory in this new season.