The AFL Middle East season has reached the mid-season, or winter, break with the Dubai Dragons having their say once again. In a shortened competition due to the withdrawal of the Muscat Magpies, the Dragons recorded their second win of the season in an eleven point thriller against the Doha Kangaroos.
The Dragons undertook a significant off-season rebuild with players departing, putting pressure on their claims to another flag. But the win against Doha sees them in the prime position to snare another minor premiership. They now have two wins, the same as the BM Bulls, but with two games to play compared to one for the Bulls.
The game in Doha was tight from the outset. The Dragons led most of the early stages, with a one goal half time lead. But the home side came back hard and jumped out to a ten point lead midway through the final quarter. But the Dragons newer players and last minute replacements stepped up to grab back the lead and hold on for a win.
The BM Bulls reacted in a most severe way to their last start loss to the Dubai Dragons with a huge win over the Abu Dhabi Falcons in the Round Four match on Friday. Whilst it was a dark day for the Falcons, playing on the picturesque grounds of the exquisite Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, for the Bulls it was a landmark day of records, including their highest club score and biggest win in their short history. The setting for the match at the Emirates Palace might well be the most opulent location ever produced for an Australian Rules football match anywhere in the world.
For the record, the BM Bulls, with astonishing accuracy, defeated the Abu Dhabi Falcons by a whopping 127 points with the Bulls kicking 27 6 168 to the Falcons 6 5 41.
After a game that had stayed close from the opening bounce, with multiple lead changes, the Dubai Dingoes stole the points from their opponents, the Doha Kangaroos, after the final siren. In a thriller, a Dingo shot on goal after the final siren had blown saw them pinch the game by just one point, much to the horror of the local Doha crowd.
The final scores saw the Dubai Dingoes 11 9 75 down the Doha Kangaroos 10 14 74
The win restores order for the Dingoes after they lost their first match of the season to the BM Bulls. For the kangaroos, the result has compounded a bad start to the season. They are yet to win a game from two outings this season and have to meet powerhouse, the Dubai Dragons, next round in Doha.
The new AFL Middle East season got under way yesterday with the Round One matches featuring the Abu Dhabi Falcons, B M Bulls, Dubai Dingoes and the Doha Kangaroos. Two weeks ago the Pre-Season Cup was played with the BM Bulls winning on the day.
After a big off-season developing skills and fitness for the new footy season, the Abu Dhabi Falcons have started their season in the best possible way. Last night the Falcons flexed their 2015/16 season muscles with a win over the Doha Kangaroos.
After a tough, hard fought match it was the Falcons 13 9 87 defeating the Kangaroos 12 2 74.
According to the Doha Kangaroos Facebook page, “Injuries to key players both before and during the game made it difficult for the Roos but that's not taking away anything from the performance of the greatly improved Falcons.”
Less than a year ago the B M Bulls had not played their first competitive match. They were about a week away from the 2014 AFL Middle East Pre-Season Cup and were a complete unknown quality to everyone. History says that the Bulls went on to record enough wins on the day to reach the Grand Final against the Dubai Dragons.
Back then it was the Dragons team which prevailed, but the signs were clear from their first competitive day that the Bulls would not take long to develop into a competitive unit.
Today that view was vindicated when the BM Bulls reversed last year’s result and have defeated the Dubai Dragons in the 2015 AFL Middle East Pre-Season Cup.
With a little less than 24 hours before boarding a flight from Israel to get to Croatia and, specifically Umag, the manager of the new Peace Team was happy to have a short conversation and give details about the newest national team entering the Euro Cup for 2015’s tournament.
Yonatan Belik, as manager, is in arguably the best position to detail the rise of the team, as well as answering a few questions about the past, present and future and an assessment of the team’s chances in Umag.
The first question looked at the national makeup of the squad, in particular the unique criteria or otherwise relating to selection. According to Yonatan, “The Peace Team Lions are made up of two major nationalities - Israeli and Palestinian - who represent their communities in a 50/50 balance within the team. All Israelis are Jews from birth, whilst the Palestinians are made up of Christians and Muslims."
For the past four seasons in the Middle East, the Dubai Dragons have been the “Kings” of an otherwise arid jungle. Last year the club won their third flag, making them the league’s most successful club. Their tally saw them pass foundation club the Dubai Heat.
Whilst the off season has been a time for the Dragons to savour the joys of success, it has also been a time where other potential dynasties have been plotting the downfall of the Dragons.
Last year’s runners-up, the BM Bulls, might be the newest club to the league, introduced just last year, but they reached the grand final and lost. They are young but they are hungry and have used their contests with the Dragons as a measuring stick. They will be keen to avenge last year’s loss and have recruited well enough over the off season to bring about change.
In less than two weeks the AFL Middle East Pre-Season Cup will be held in Dubai at the Sevens Stadium. October 9th signals the start of the new season as teams begin to flex their sleepier muscles and brush of the cobwebs ready to see which club will be the next champion.
Last year’s Pre-Season Cup saw the Dubai Dragons play the newcomers, the BM Bulls, in the final. At the time many thought it might be a “flash in the pan” performance, yet just a few months later those same two clubs went on to contest the 2014/15 premiership. Certainly, a good performance at the pre-season event can be a guide to what might follow.
President of AFL Middle East, Matt Burn, was happy to give a bit of a run down on what followers might expect for the new season.
The newest team in the AFL Middle East stable off talent enjoyed one of the most remarkable maiden seasons in any league for the 2014/15 season. To play their first game in the pre-season cup in October 2014 and go on to be grand finalists in March 2015 shows an incredible performance in just five months.
Club President, Andrew Campbell, was involved from day one and was happy to share the story of the Bulls’ rise – as much for storytelling as it is a blueprint for development and success that other clubs may be able to replicate.
It is a week since the 2014/15 season finished in the Middle East, largely due to rest, recovery, work commitments and various celebrations. But in the clear air a week onwards, rather than the heady air of celebration or commiseration, a look back at the day tells a story of the day.
Huwy Jones, president of the victorious Dubai Dragons, provided his insight into how the day panned out.
“The Dragons had the wind in the first quarter and didn't capitalise with both sides kicking goals. Quarter time saw the Dubai Dragons 4 2 26 lead the BM Bulls 3 2 20.”
“The game turned our way during the second quarter - our five goals to one into the wind helped set up a very handy lead at half-time. Dubai Dragons 9 4 58 leading the BM Bulls 4 4 28.”