Sometimes pure statistics can be a very useful tool in assessing performance and predicting results. On other occasions, statistics are an idiot – telling nothing more than what the reader wants them to say. But a brief look at the stats surrounding the fourth round of AFL Middle East matches are enough to confirm that the Dubai Dragons will once again contest the grand final, and only a disaster or upset of Hollywood proportions will stop the Multiplex Bulls from joining them in a fourth consecutive decider.
The Dragons have four wins from four outings after their demolition of the undermanned Entertainer Dubai Dingoes. They are not guaranteed the minor premiership just yet, but cannot be overtaken now by the third or fourth placed teams – the Falcons or Dingoes. The Bulls downed the Falcons, which puts a two game buffer – and a whopping 100% percentage differential – between second and third place. The Bulls WILL reach the grand final, they just need another win to wrap it and tie a bow around it.
After a break since late November, the AFL Middle East competition gets under way again this week with two matches in the United Arab Emirates - one in Dubai and the other in Abu Dhabi. As with all matches in a four-team competition, both matches will have implications for the upcoming finals series.
The Round Four clashes will see the Dubai Dragons take on the Entertainer Dubai Dingoes at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai at 12.30pm. Shortly afterwards in Abu Dhabi, the home team will host the Multiplex Bulls at 2.00pm at the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Victory for any team will brighten finals hopes with three rounds to go. Even the Dingoes, three defeats from three starts to date, could still turn their fortunes around.
The Dragons sit undefeated on top of the ladder and will be favoured to defeat the Dingoes. Already a game clear of second-placed Bulls, the Dragons will be hard to dislodge from the minor premiership position should they win. For the Dingoes to have any finals hope their resurgence must start Friday with an upset against the Dragons.
It has been a while since the Muscat Magpies, from Oman in the Middle East, have taken to the field. In fact, it was during the 2014/15 season that the club formally announced that it would cease playing in the AFL Middle East competition. Since then they have left the door open for a return and slowly worked towards a possible return. Last week, the club hosted the Multiplex Bulls in an International Rules match – a step towards something bigger down the track. The following article from Alex Broun at Sport 360 looks at the game.
The first ever International Rules match was played in Muscat with the Multiplex Bulls taking on GAA Oman in an exhibition match.
Hosted by the Sultan’s School, Seeb, 20 Bulls players made the trip from Dubai to play the landmark match, which is a hybrid of Gaelic football and Australian Rules, on Friday.
The Bahrain Suns’ dream of re-entering the AFL Middle East competition has taken another couple of positive steps. Not only has the club released its new club logo (see image – top left), but it have also been invited to send a team to Muscat, in Oman, to compete in the Lightning Cup in January 2018.
Whilst the Suns have shared their moniker with the Gold Coast Suns, the logo itself is an original, rather than design to make the logo and club apparel stand out with a Bahrain flavour, rather than taking on the Gold Coast Suns’ emblem in a revised format.
Now the search is on for players, coaches and umpires to make the journey to Oman for the event, to be played on 19th January at the ABA/Rugby Club Ground in Al Khuwair, Muscat. Whilst the opportunity by no means guarantees that the Bahrain club will be a part of the 2018/19 AFL Middle East competition, their ability to be in Muscat will certainly help accelerate the process.
The Dubai Dragons have taken out the latest Dubai derby, downing the Dubai Dingoes by 68 points at Dubai Sports City. The Dragons were relentless, leading and extending their advantage at every break and never looking like allowing the Dingoes back into the match.
Even though the first quarter saw just two goals to one in favour of the Dragons, the real story was in the poor kicking by the Dragons – eleven scoring shots to one showed more clearly where the match might be headed. By the final change the Dragons had put the game to rest with a 47 point lead, going on then to a comfortable victory. Darcy O’Sullivan kicked three goals for the Dragons whilst Jess Mcguirk kicked three for the Dingoes.
Final Scores: Dubai Dragons 13 24 102 d Dubai Dingoes 5 4 34
Recently, World Footy News reported of the decision that would see the Doha Kangaroos in Qatar stand down from fielding a team in the AFL Middle East competition for the current 2017/18 season. Their intention was to rise out the current travel restrictions between some Middle East nations and return to the league when travel became less difficult. (See story: Doha Kangaroos On Hold)
To ensure the teams stay fit and remain together, both the Doha Kangaroos (AFL) and the Qatar GAA (Gaelic Football) teams have come together in a unifying tournament with a view to their respective league returns.
Australian Rules football in the Middle East is unique – and at times problematic. Unlike most leagues that play their games with teams from within a country, AFL Middle East (Like AFL Asia) is a competition played amongst nations. The traditional nations in the league – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain – have held the league together through many formats over the years depending of the availability of teams for that season.
But the political, economic, social and geographical challenges involved across this part of the world have conspired to halt the progress of some clubs – the latest being the Doha Kangaroos from Qatar. Just three seasons ago, the Kangaroos claimed their maiden AFL Middle East premiership. Now, after a period of travel instability across the region, mainly political in nature, the Kangaroos will sit out the remainder of the 2017/18 season.
Whilst the AFL Middle East football community had eyes firmly locked on the grand final replay between the Dragons and Bulls, it was another Emirates team that sent a strong message of their own. The Abu Dhabi Falcons fought hard against the Dragons in Round One and followed that up with a comprehensive win against the Dingoes to drive home the message that the Falcons are right there in the finals mix.
In a game of two halves, the Falcons did the damage with a 74 to 21 first half. The second half belonged to the Dingoes as they clawed back some of the deficit to outscore the Falcons after half time. Their effort was even more commendable with just two players on the bench. But the damage had already been done early as the Falcons ran out convincing 43 point victors. So early in the season yet, but the Falcons are on track to stay in the finals battle waiting for one of the top two teams to falter.
Round One of the 2017/18 AFL Middle East season got under way in Dubai on Thursday and Friday amid the warmth of the Middle Eastern climate. Last year’s grand finalists, the Dubai Dragons and Multiplex Bulls, both enjoyed first up wins and have already grabbed a flying advantage over all other teams.
Thursday evening saw the season opener when the Multiplex Bulls took on the Dubai Dingoes. On a warm but pleasant evening under lights at Dubai Sports City, the Dingoes threw everything at the Bulls early. According to the AFL Middle East report:
“[The game was played in] very still and pleasant conditions - 29 degrees for the 8:30pm kick off but humidity was low. The Dingoes won the toss [and] had plenty of new faces. Captain Ben Dawson did his calf during the week and could only manage 5 minutes of game time – a big loss for the Dingoes.”
One of the hallmarks of a great dynasty is to understand that change is inevitable and be able to absorb change and continue forward. It is what has powered great nations and cultures over time and a similar process occurs in sport.
The Dubai Dragons – winner of five out of the past six AFL Middle east premierships – is in that position now. They may be at the end of their great reign, or they may be on a solid plateau set for another year of greatness. Time will tell, but one thing that is certain is they have embraced change over this past off-season. How they respond will determine whether the new season brings more glory or the start of a new phase of rebuilding.
The club is acutely aware of this and is addressing needs. Iain Rowe, president of the Dubai Dragons, offers his insight.