The 2018 Andes Cup has been won again by the Bogota Bulldogs from Colombia. It makes it three wins from three tournaments against the Santiago Saints representing Chile. The two nations are leading the way in growing Australian Football on the South American continent – more than a few nearby nations will be watching the result.
Their battle on the weekend saw one club (Saints) on the back of a long history playing the game in Santiago without regular competition up against the club (Bulldogs) that has seen the creation of the AFL Colombia competition this year. Their players had come off an entire local season and a couple of games from a new one. On face value, the Bulldogs probably had an advantage in sheer match play and conditioning.
Both the Santiago Saints and Bogota Bulldogs are feverishly preparing for the biggest South American match of the year – the Andes Cup – to be played in Bogota on Saturday 25th August. The Bulldogs are current title-holders and have won the title both years since the inception of the event. However, the Saints have been getting closer and maybe this will be their year.
President of the Bogota Bulldogs, Paddy Smallwood, shared his thoughts ahead of the historic clash – the showpiece of Australian football in South America.
“[Our] season goes into recess now as the Andes Cup vs Chile takes place in two weeks. The Bulldogs squad will be massively different to previous teams, with many great players having left Colombia and many new Colombian players forcing their way into the squad.”
The second AFL Colombia season has already produced surprising results, with inaugural flag winner, the DC Aguilas, already slipping behinds the other teams and at risk of being unable to defend their title from earlier in the year. President of AFL Colombia, Paddy Smallwood, looks at the last two matches.
“The Aguilas, coming off a defeat to the Bullants in Round 1, needed to back up and face the Bombers. Again, with a number of key players missing through injury and vacations, the reigning premiers had their backs against the wall for the second week running, and the lack of confidence showed early.”
“The Bombers jumped out of the blocks and stunned the Aguilas with an impressive seven goal four to the Aguilas scoreless first quarter. Some quarter time adjustments and composure where exactly what the Aguilas needed. Any thought of the contest being over where extinguished with three quick-fire goals to the Aguilas breathing life back into the contest. The Bombers then steadied with two of their own before the the Aguilas responded again to take out the quarter four goals to two.”
The second instalment of the AFL Colombia competition got under way last weekend. Just weeks after the DC Aguilas held aloft the inaugural premiership, teams returned to the playing field in Bogota for the second “season” for the year. Paddy Smallwood from AFL Colombia sent the following report after the Agulias took on the Bullants.
“The rematch of the teams from the last Grand Final proved to be a real livewire for both the Gourmet Burger Bar Bogota D.C. Aguilas and the Bogota Craft Beer Tours.”
“With the Aguilas facing off against what was once their star player Sam Miller but also incorporating the mercenary ex-vice captain of the Bullants Tristan Quigley, there was certainly some tension between the two outfits.”
Much has been made in 2018 of the rapid rise of the Bogota Bulldogs and the new AFL Colombia competition. But the longest serving Australian Football team in South America, the Santiago Saints, have been preparing quietly, away from the limelight down in Chile. The Saints have been the mainstay of the game, so many miles from the MCG, and would see the rise of the Bulldogs as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they now have the Bulldogs for genuine international footy to be played. But also, the Bulldogs have entered the Saints' turf and must be thwarted.
Here is a small clip from the Santiago Saints showing a small glimpse of the team getting ready for battle next month against the Bulldogs.
It seems like just a few weeks ago when the DC Aguilas defeated the Bogota Bullants to win the inaugural AFL Colombia premiership. In fact, it was. However, the format for the first season of competition in Colombia sees two mini seasons within the one calendar year, and part two is about to get under way.
The competitions in Colombia are very heavily built around the growth of the national team – the Bogota Bulldogs. The first season (completed just a month ago) saw the drafting of local and ex-pat talent to the three local clubs (Aguilas, Bullants and Bombers) to form a national competition where players could develop and the best would be selected to represent the nation in the Bogota Bulldogs team.
The Bulldogs will fight to retain The Andes Cup against the Santiago Saints from Chile mid-way through this next season. There is also the chance to play in an 18 per side match at season’s end and possibly play in another yet to be defined international match, so performances across this second AFL Colombia season will be important.
The history books will forever show that the DC Aguilas became the first ever AFL Colombia champions after their 15-point victory over the Bogota Bullants. A year ago, this competition did not exist, yet now it boasts a champion team after a hugely successful first season.
Paddy Smallwood, president of AFL Colombia, provided his view of the biggest match yet to be played in Bogota. “The best game of the season was saved for the grand final - the Aguilas going in favourites but the Bullants regaining their captain and some quality players made for a thrilling and hard fought affair.”
“The Aguilas jumped out of the gate in the first quarter, dominating possession in their forward half. However, they were not able to convert it on the scorecard with some strong Bullants defending and inaccuracy restricting the Aguilas to two goals. The Bullants rallied with 2 quick goals late in the quarter before the Aguilas steadied and kicked a late goal just before the siren to take a 7 point lead into the quarter time break.”
The inaugural season of the CAFL (Colombia Australian Football League) will come to a satisfying close this weekend when the nation’s first ever Aussie Rules grand final will be played in the capital city of Bogota. It will bring to an end a season were Aussie expats have blended beautifully with local Colombian talent to see the rise of the game in South America that only a couple of years ago was a dream.
The match will feature the Bogota Bullants up against the DC Aguilas. The Bogota Bombers missed out on reaching the big day, yet remained a highly competitive third team, even downing the Bullants along the way.
AFL Colombia president, Paddy Smallwood, previews the match.
“The grand final should be a solid affair. The D.C Aguilas are coming in favourites off three wins on the trot, and the Bullants' last game being the bloodbath [against the Bombers]. The Aguilas team has been a consistent group all year, which has allowed the drastic improvement of their fleet of Colombian guns.”
After downing the Bogota Bombers on the weekend, the DC Aguilas have earned the right to meet the Bogota Bullants in the inaugural AFL Colombia grand final. It has been a wonderful first season for the fledgling league, setting up a permanency for the game in years to come. Whilst there were twists and turns along the way, with the Bombers finding form late to challenge, the two best performed teams will ultimately go to the big dance.
Final Scores: DC Aguilas 23 11 149 d Bogota Bombers 12 15 87
AFL Colombia president, Paddy Smallwood, reported from Bogota that, “this definitely ramped up to be the biggest match of the regular season. A rematch of what was the most intense contest of the season, it was do-or-die for the Blue Studies Bombers against the Gourmet Burger Bar Bogota D.C. Aguilas who were sitting pretty at the top of the ladder.”
It doesn’t happen often, but the Bogota Bombers have set a few AFL Colombia records last weekend as they kept themselves firmly in the premiership race. Apart from being the highest score recorded in the very new South American competition, they also scored it being the bottom team. Add to that, the Bogota Bombers recorded a 213-point turnaround from the last time they met the Bogota Bullants. Certainly, the match has changed the status quo of the competition, bringing all three teams back into premiership calculations.
Paddy Smallwood, president of AFL Colombia, provided a look at the game and its ramifications on the competition.
“The game was a bloodbath. The Bullants went in very undermanned, with their captain Jamez injured and the league’s current leading goalscorer, Matt Sharaz, back home in Australia with his feet up, and many other important players out for various, some sceptical, reasons.”