One has to have some respect for those who write the draw for the AFL Middle East competition. Far from being a simple Team A v Team B and repeat competition, the Middle East throws up a unique set of challenges to have teams play matches once, much less for a whole season.
But the fact that they do so every year is evidence of the passion with which the people involved in the AFL Middle East competition operate.
Whilst four of the teams are located within the United Arab Emirates – the Dubai Dragons, Dubai Dingoes and the Multiplex Bulls are each based in Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Falcons are located 140 kilometres to the south-west. If it were just those four clubs thing might be relatively easy – but there is more.
To the winners – congratulations! The Dubai Dragons are the deserved AFL Middle East Premiers for the 2016/17 season. They have built up across the season in preparation for the biggest day of all. In the process they have re-written history (again!) and set the bar for success to a height that may or may not be reached again. Nothing should take away the sheer joy of the Dragon’s success this year, and will not.
But, for a moment, spare a thought for the gallant Multiplex Bulls. For the third consecutive season they have been beaten in the grand final by the Dubai Dragons. Three times they have felt the heartache of a premiership defeat – more if you count their debut season loss to the Dragons in the pre-season cup. They will be hurting – all the more for the fact that the final margin was just six points. So near, yet so far. Justifiably, there will be some Bulls wondering if they can ever win a flag. But they can, and they will. Later.
They have been the titans of the AFL Middle East competition for the past three seasons – the Dubai Dragons and the Multiplex Bulls. Since arriving to the competition for the 2014/15 season, the Bulls haven’t missed a grand final. The Dragons are after an extraordinary five flags in six seasons. They have truly been the gladiators of the competition and tomorrow they meet again in the AFL Middle East Grand Final.
For the record, here are some stats that will matter. The teams have met in two premiership season grand finals – both won by the Dragons. They also met in two pre-season grand finals, with a win apiece. The Dragons hold the edge in total win/loss results. But, significantly, it was the Bulls that reigned supreme last time the two teams met – downing the Dragons by 34 points after a huge eight goal to one second half.
For the third consecutive season the Dubai Dragons will meet the Multiplex Bulls in the AFL Middle East decider. For the Dragons it is a chance to take their current dynasty to an unprecedented third consecutive flag and vying for five flags in six years. The Bulls have not missed a grand final since they joined the competition for the 2014/15 season and they will be hoping for “third time lucky” when they meet the Dragons at Dubai Sports City on Thursday 9th March.
The final round of matches saw both the Bulls and Dragons do what they had to do to win their final matches. With the home and away matches completed, the Bulls went through the season undefeated with four wins. The Dragons dropped just one game to the Bulls earlier in the season. The Dingoes, Falcons and Kangaroos each finished with a win each. The Doha Kangaroos took the wooden spoon with a narrow percentage deficit.
It has been a tough couple of seasons for the Doha Kangaroos, inhabiting the lower rungs of the AFL Middle East ladder and finding wins difficult to find, despite some closely fought battles. So their last start win over the visiting Abu Dhabi Falcons would have brought huge smiles to the Qatar-based crew and warmed their hearts as well.
In a hard fought and tight clash, the Kangaroos held on by two even goals, taking the match 13 8 86 to the Falcons 11 8 74. In a significant by-product of the win, the Kangaroos have jumped over the Falcons on the ladder – temporarily getting away from the wooden spoon position and handing that dubious honour to the Falcons. A small percentage differential exists, favouring the Kangaroos. Whilst the Falcons have now finished their season and cannot change their percentage, the Kangaroos will be hoping for a win, or at least a very tight result in their next clash to stay off the bottom.
In one of the closest ever battles to reach finals in AFL Middle east history, the Multiplex Bulls are the first team guaranteed to play in this season’s decider. The competition returned from its winter break with a double header with the top four teams in battles which would possibly decide their 2016/17 fate.
The first match saw a rampant Dubai Dragons go within an ace of guaranteeing their grand final spot when they downed the Abu Dhabi Falcons. Going into the match, both teams were in the mix, but the falcons are now out of contention with just one win from three matches and a poor percentage. The Dragons would have to be incredibly unlucky to fall from second place with a big percentage boost making them very nearly safe.
Final score: Dubai Dragons 17 10 112 d Abu Dhabi Falcons 4 8 32
The battle for top spot in the AFL Middle east competition was decided when the Multiplex Bulls journeyed to Abu Dhabi to play the Falcons at Zayed Sports City. Going into the game, the Bulls, Falcons, Dingoes and Dragons were all locked on one win each. The Bulls won the Round Four match in windy conditions and after a titanic struggle.
Final Score: Multiplex Bulls 9 15 69 d Abu Dhabi Falcons 9 7 61
The Falcons put up enormous resistance, with the Bulls conceding they were a very strong outfit. They are a much improved side and still have two games to play to make a play for a grand final place.
The Entertainer Dubai Dingoes have righted their ship with a solid win over the Doha Kangaroos in their Round 3 clash in Qatar. After taking out the pre-season cup, much was expected of the Dingoes this season, but a first round slip to the Abu Dhabi Falcons put them on the back foot.
The win on the weekend, however, places the Dingoes right back in the finals frame, with four teams – Bulls, Dragons, Falcons and Dingoes – locked on one win apiece. Only the Kangaroos are yet to record a win, despite being highly competitive.
Final Score: Entertainer Dingoes 13 7 85 d Doha Kangaroos 10 9 69.
The Dubai Dragons have righted their ship somewhat after their clash with the Doha Kangaroos. After going down last start to the Multiplex Bulls in their opening clash of the season, the Dragons were determined to bounce back hard, and did.The final score saw the Dubai Dragons winning 15 13 103 to the Doha Kangaroos 6 4 40, increasing their lead at every change.
The Dragons got away well in the first quarter with four unanswered goals to set up a solid 23 point lead. By half time they had effectively closed out the game kicking another six goals to two. An inaccurate third quarter still saw them advance their lead. The Kangaroos put up a spirited fight in the final quarter, but to no avail as the Dragons ran out 63 point victors.
The AFL Middle East season opened with the double-header draw at Sevens Stadium in Dubai yesterday. The local footy community was treated to two games, both hotly contested and exciting, though for very different reasons.
The match between last year’s grand finalists, the Dubai Dragons and the Multiplex Bulls, was tight at half time. Both teams were out to make statements and locked horns, if you will, in a territorial fight where neither was prepared to concede. However, after the main break it was the Bulls that hammered home eight goals to one to run out convincing 34 point victors 11 11 77 to 6 7 43.