October 2, 2023
Roving Roo Reporter
The Collingwood Magpies won an absolute thriller on Friday night to capture the AFL Grand Final Premiership, simultaneously elating half the footy fans of the world while devastating the other half. Sort of like when the Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees do the same in their respective sports: you either love ‘em or hate ‘em and there is no middle ground. Congratulations to the Magpies with a special shout out to Mason Cox, the first ever player born to American parents to win the championship.
And just like that it is time for the USAFL to charge into the largest footy tournament in the world! The USAFL got things rolling with the preview show where Brian Barrish revealed team by team where everyone is stacking up for this year. The Nashville Kangaroos supporters were unsure exactly where they would end up due to a strong showing at last year’s tournament where they missed the Division III grand final by a point, and then having a reasonably strong showing during the regular 2023 season in spite of a heavy travel schedule (five away trips to only three home games). As the last team in Division II was announced, this reporter was rather sure the Kangaroos would be the top seed in Division III again this year, and that is exactly where they have been placed!
The remainder of Pool A consists of two teams the Roos have tangled with on several occasions in the past half a dozen years, including last year’s Division III Pool A!! The final team is one of the newest in the USAFL but they continue to grow rapidly. On the opposite side in Pool B are opponents the Roos have met multiple times over the past quarter century, with Philadelphia (with help from newcomer Virginia), Chicago (Nashville’s partner at last year’s tournament nicknamed the Swannaroos) who have a bit of help from Minnesota, Arizona (whose draw with Nashville last year put them in the final, and lastly, St. Louis, one of the old MAAFL opponents of the Roos, with help from Ohio Valley (a few of those players were with Nashville in 2021 when the Roos captured the Division IV Championship).
Phew! There is no lack of history in all these potential match-ups! So, “Let’s get down to it, Boppers!” (Side note – if you can name the 1979 movie that line comes from, I will be in awe!)
The tournament structure is for Seed 1 to play Seed 4 in the first round Saturday morning (and obviously the other two play each other), followed by Seed 1 playing Seed 3 Saturday afternoon. And if seeding is accurate, that leaves Seed 1 versus Seed 2 for the right to play in the grand final.
Nashville Kangaroos vs. North Texas Devils (Nashville 2-0 all time)
North Texas is a newer USAFL club carving out its market in the heavily populated and well respected footy mosh pit of central Texas. The club has grown quickly and staffs a full side. In the 2023 Eastern/Central Regional this year the Roos (combining with the DC Eagles) smashed the Devils en route to the Regional Div 1 title. The Devils compiled a 3-9 record this season which sounds like it was a tough year, however, they play the Div I multi-time champion Austin Crows on a regular basis so don’t count them out. However, this reporter will take the over and the Kangaroos to win their opening match.
Nashville Kangaroos vs. Oklahoma Buffaloes (Nashville 1-0 all time)
This is the one the Kangaroos need to watch out for. If they get past North Texas as expected and start eyeing the prize too early, they could easily get stampeded by the Buffaloes. The only match up between the two happened last year in Division III pool play and Nashville was able to build just enough of a lead to hang on late and take a three-point victory, 35-32. This season the Buffaloes stampeded their way to a 5-4 record, quite respectable in the crowded and competitive Central Region. Look for this one to be another nail biter, however, in the end, the experienced veterans wearing the Tennessee Roo on their chests should be able get the boys through Saturday with a 2-0 mark.
Nashville Kangaroos vs. Des Moines Roosters (Nashville 3-1 all time)
Sunday is often when the rubber hits the road, when the stakes ante up and the coveted spot in a grand final is on the line. Plenty of recent history here to guarantee a slugfest happens in this match. The first match was at the 2015 US Nationals when the Roosters took out the Roos with a strong 41-18 win. Nashville got revenge the following year with a 44-40 win at the Central Regionals. They didn’t find each other again until last year’s Nationals, which we already know the Roos cooped up the Roosters in a grinding match that saw the (Swanna-)Roos depth and experience produce a solid win 42-18, followed this year by eking out the Regional win 22-20. The Roosters and the Roos both sport admirable 8-4 records this season and get this, the total points after 4 matches are nearly level with the narrow edge to the Roos 126-119. This is one for the true footy fan, with the grand final likely on the line and coming down to the final minutes (a la Collingwood!), bragging rights at the Coopers Garden and after party, hardware to be drinking from later all on the line because it is going to be Win Or Go Home. Enough suspense, of course we pick the Roos to win. CARN THE ROOS!
Division III Grand Final
Assuming my prestidigitation skills are accurate, the scouting that the Roos coaching staff will be doing during pool play will become critical to taking home the title. The Roos would be seeking their second National Title in three years. At that point their record in their last three national tournaments would be an impressive 9-0-1. Their 2023 season record would stand at 11-4 which would rank as the 3rd most wins (in 26 seasons) and the most since 2012 (with a 13-4 mark) and the all-time best in 2002 (an incredible 16-2 year).
Nashville has played every team in Pool B many times over. But for this story we will focus just on the major club within the team. In reverse order:
St. Louis Blues (Nashville 10-3 all time)
The Blues were an early club in USFooty, and the MAAFL (which became the Central Division), before they disbanded after 2009. Those games were known for being hard hitting and fairly contested (during the 10-year stretch four titles were won between them). The blues reformed recently and have been ramping up, trying to return to those glory days. The teams took it to each other at the Hendrie Cup two months ago in Chicago where the Roos prevailed 35-23. Don’t count them out, because the game isn’t played on paper, you gotta get it done on the pitch.
Arizona Hawks (Nashville 1-2-1 all time)
The pool dark horse. The Hawks took the draw last year to sneak into the grand final, leaving Rooboys muttering for the last 11½ months, something about revenge… Anyway, they did not play a whole lot during the season with a 1-4 record, but they are supported by some Orange County players. Definitely get the scouts out there to take copious notes. The overall record stretches back to 2003 with all matches at Nationals and three very close affairs.
Chicago Swans (Nashville 16-14 all time)
Probably already wrote enough about Chicago this season so the question here really becomes which Swans team shows up: the one that worked extremely well with the Roos in 2022 and beat up the Roos at the Hendrie Cup? Or the one that took the return beating last month as Nashville closed its season strong. Depending on which Minnesota Freeze players are picked up will dictate whether they can make it out of their pool for one last crack at the Roos and for the glory of it all.
Philadelphia Hawks (Nashville 2-3 all time)
The second Hawks team in this pool (that happens in USAFL!) had some good teams in the 2000s and back then the clubs split two games with the home teams winning. They didn’t collide again until 2013 when the Roos forgot it was the City of Brotherly Love and almost shut out the home Hawks. But the two matches since, both at Nationals were lopsided affairs which theoretically would point toward playing the revenge card. Philadelphia has a 1-4 record this year and is being supplemented by Virginia, so who knows what they can do. Oh yeah, let’s scout their Saturday games and find out!
Nashville Kangaroos Win Second National Title (the sought-after headline)
Pool B is really a crap shoot, so one might say it won’t matter who comes out of the pool, the Rooboys will be ready for anything.Regardless, there should be plenty of action, intrigue, and drama as the pools play out, setting up what should be a highly competitive grand final, which means we all win with some terrific footy to see. The USAFL has not announced the final schedule of games yet but look for your Rooboys to on one of the two fields with live streaming at least once, and more likely two or even three times on the weekend!