The new season for AFL Middle East is fast approaching with all clubs currently in pre-season training and making their plans for their assaults on the 2014/15 premiership. Last year the Doha kangaroos bought change and hope to all clubs when they defeated the Dubai Dragons for their maiden flag, and as a result all teams now know that anyone can win.
The new season starts with the Pre-Season Cup to be held in Dubai on Friday October 17th, before Round One kicks off in the first week of November. The season will see five rounds played either side of the Christmas/New Year break, with the Grand Final scheduled for March 20th in Dubai.
Matt Burn, General Manager at AFL Middle East, has provided an overview of all teams in their preparation for the new season.
The new AFL Middle East season will return to a six team competition with the addition of a new club, the BM Bulls. For the past few seasons the Middle East competition has run with just the five clubs since the Bahrain Blues pulled out prior to the start off the 2012/13 season.
This will mean the Bulls will join existing clubs the Abu Dhabi Falcons, Doha Kangaroos, Dubai Dingoes, Dubai Dragons and Muscat Magpies.
According the Matt Burn, General Manager – Football Operations at AFL Middle East, “[BM Bulls are the] new team introduced to the competition for season 2014/15. The league was approached by Andy Campbell who said they had a full squad who were looking to start their own side in the competition. The league and all five clubs agreed that it would be good to introduce a sixth team to the competition. The Bulls are backed by Brookfield Multiplex [hence the BM] and 95% of the players are all employed by the business. They are the unknown side for 2014/15, so watch this space!”
Ed: As the Doha Kangaroos bask in the glory of the recent maiden premiership, the following Grand Final match review has been made available with the assistance of Matt Burn, president of the Dubai Dragons.
It was a hot day out at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai with no relieving wind at the ground. The match was played on the same pitch used for the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens and was in magnificent condition. A good crowd was in attendance with vocal supporters from both teams who stirred into the grandness of the occasion with the national anthem setting the scene for the day.
The opening quarter saw Doha start the strongest and looked switched on kicking the first 2 goals of the game. Just five minutes into the game Dragons lost their leading goal kicker Ryan Perkins with a fractured cheekbone from a big hit. However, the Dragons bounced back to take the lead, with utility Mark Browne making an impact. Just before quarter time another injury blow for the Dragons losing their captain Huwy Jones with a calf injury. At the first break the Dragons held the lead 25-21.
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.